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RMMRU: Expats targeted as only sources of coronavirus contagion

  • Published at 03:56 pm April 4th, 2020
Rajib Wuhan Returnee
File photo Rajib Dhar/Dhaka Tribue

Expatriates in general were being projected in society rather negatively were being subjected to harassment and humiliation

While taking account of the depressing narratives of expatriates in the country amid the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, the Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RRMRU) has also underscored the risk of contagion among the local population being spread by executives, business travelers, officials and aid workers of  international NGOs who might have returned to Bangladesh in recent times.

Dr Tasneem Siddiqui, founder chairman of RRMRU, a home-grown centre for evidence-based research and grassroots action group, brought the matter to light during an online press briefing aimed at reflecting on the current situation being faced by the expatriate community across the country. 

The RRMRU chief said that when the coronavirus had started spreading outside mainland China, a large number of expatriates living in China had returned to Bangladesh. 

Dr Tasneem said: "We have noticed that expatriates are the only group of people being identified as primary sources of the spread of the Covid-19, whereas other groups, including businessmen, international travelers, top officials and workers of INGOs had never been  a subject of discussion with regard to the sources of the deadly disease."

"In many instances, home quarantine for those individuals was not imposed, much to our surprise, and neither has the matter drawn the attention of the media." 

Expatriates in general were being projected in society rather negatively were being subjected to harassment and humiliation, Dr Tasneem added.

The RRMRU official also criticized the way in which the media ran stories involving expatriates and published reports that were suggestive of these people breaching the government's home quarantine measures. 

Indiscriminate reporting devoid of journalistic acumen and sensitivity had also stigmatized the expatriate population before the local populace. 

As a consequence, expats have been facing threats and intimidation from society, forcing them to remain in places away from their homes.

According to Bangladesh Bank data, expatriates contributed $1,687 million in remittance inflow into Bangladesh in December 2019, with a staggering 40% growth compared with the corresponding month in 2018.

Remittance inflow dropped by 12% in 1st quarter of FY2019-20

Meanwhile, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the remittance flow into Bangladesh has marked a sharp decrease at least by 12% in the first three months of this year compared to the last fiscal. 

Considering the downward trend, economists and government officials are of the view that the country will experience a further slump in remittance earnings.

The slowdown in remittance inflow will have a detrimental impact on the nation's economy. Tens of thousands of families who are solely dependent on remittances will bear the brunt. 

With the government's pledge to provide financial support to the families of expatriates, Dr Tasneem urged the authorities to do more, including matching grants from the budget as it would not be ethical to use deposits by expatriates to provide services. 

She also urged the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) to step up efforts in raising funds from its members in an effort to help support the people who have already obtained visas and work permits but could not leave the country due to financial hardship.

RRMRU fear surge in human trafficking

Anticipating the worst amid the coronavirus pandemic, the RRMRU said that there had been a number of indications that a global economic downturn would have varied but wide repercussions for the Bangladesh economy. 

Amid a declining trade volume, investment and remittances inflow, expatriates, students and desperate job seekers would take otherwise  risky means to migrate to other countries for sustenance.

"As demands will be much higher against job opportunities, we fear that international and local human traffickers will try to take advantage of this precarious situation,” said Dr Tasneem.

She urged the government and private organizations to come up with alternative job opportunities in the country for expatriates. 

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