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Study: 63% migrants forced to return due to Covid-19 despite having work visas

  • Published at 03:23 pm August 11th, 2021
Saudi Arabia migrant workers return 2
File Photo: Bangladesh is one of the world's largest exporters of labour, with nearly 700,000 people getting jobs abroad annually prior to the pandemic. The picture was taken at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on October 5, 2018 Syed Zakir Hossain/Dhaka Tribune

48% of the respondents wanted to re-migrate abroad while 27% wanted to start their own businesses in the country, according to the study

Around 63% of the expatriates from Gulf countries were forced to return to Bangladesh despite having proper work permits and visas, a study has revealed.

They also lost on average Tk1,79,989 in wages and other entitlements during this time, according to the study, “Addressing systemic challenges of wage theft: Bangladeshi Covid-19 returnees from the gulf”.

Speakers at a national consultation on Wednesday highlighted the issues of wage theft and others organized by Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit (RMMRU) and Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA).

Around 67.7% of respondents among returnee expatriates did not receive due wages regularly after February 2020 in the destination countries while 38.7% experienced reduced wages, the study said.

Also Read - Study: Half of migrant workers still unemployed

A total of 1,160 migrants from 45 districts in Bangladesh who returned from six Gulf states --- Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait --- were interviewed from March 25 to May 6 this year. 

Of the six countries, UAE sent back the highest number of expatriates.

Among the returnees, 48.6% lost jobs while 63% were forced to return or stay back in Bangladesh at the instructions of their employers. Besides, 28.5% came to Bangladesh on vacation and were left stranded in the country. 

Presenting the key findings of the study, Dr CR Abrar said: “Despite having due visas and work permits, the workers were forced to return by their employers. The state sponsored repatriation process did not ensure that workers could lodge claims to their unpaid entitlements in the future.” 

Also Read - Standard Chartered, Brac to develop returnee migrant workers into entrepreneurs

Among the respondents, 48% wanted to re-migrate abroad while 27% wanted to start their own businesses in the country, the study found. 

In case of involuntary repatriation, the responsibility should be on the employers to bear the full cost of repatriation, including medical tests, the research recommends for workers who have valid documents, the forum has suggested. 

Joanna Yu of Migrant Forum in Asia; Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA); Dr Nurul Islam, formerly of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET); Ranjit Chandra Das of BASTOB; Sumaiya Islam of Bangladesh Nari Sramik Kendra (BNSK); Syed Saiful Haque of Bangladesh Civil Societies for Migrants (BCSM); and Gazi Salauddin of National Human Rights Commission participated in the event.

Till now, around 480,000 Bangladeshi workers have returned from their destination countries amid pandemic, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.

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