The returnee migrants who were forced to or chose to return home amid the coronavirus pandemic are increasingly running out of options in terms of returning to their livelihoods, whether at home or abroad.
Around 2 lakh Bangladeshi workers, who returned home from different countries, are not sure whether they will be able to return to the countries where they were working, or even if they do, whether their prolonged absence will be excused by their employers.
The vast majority of them have not pursued any jobs during the period back in Bangladesh either, and now many of them are starting to near the end of their tether.
A survey released by Bangladesh-based international development organization Brac last week revealed 87 percent of the country’s returnee migrants- amid the COVID-19 pandemic - are still struggling without any source of income in their changed circumstances.
More tellingly, 52 percent of the returnees said they need financial aid on an emergency basis, said Shariful Islam, head of Brac’s migration programme in a virtual meeting with journalists where the findings of a Brac survey titled ‘The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Life and Livelihoods of Returnee Migrants,’ were disclosed.
Monir Hossain, who used to work in a company in Lebanon, had planned to return via a flight booked on April 10, but of course there was no air travel on at the time.
"I am extremely worried as my family depends on my earnings. I am getting frustrated I have no work here to earn money," Hossain told UNB.
Hossain said he spent his all deposited money and took loan from neighbours in exchange of high interest to tackle the situation.
Hossain said the coronavirus is wreaking havoc on the global economy including Lebanon as some of his colleagues have lost their jobs during this time.
Monir Hossain is not alone. But many expatriates expressed their bitter experience of now living in uncertainty as their cash saved for emergencies is finished.
Many of them are taking support and loan from their relatives and neighbours to lead their daily life and cover family expenses.
Another expatriate, Abul Kalam Azad, came to Bangladesh on February 5 with a return ticket for March 19.
"We are now upset as the return still remains uncertain. Staying home is not a matter of happiness now, it made us much worried," he told UNB.
"We came to Bangladesh with short stay plan. The suspension of flights alongside the countrywide lockdown crippled us. Then Ramadan and Eid have brought much worries as our pockets are empty," he added.
A total of 28,849 expatriate Bangladeshis will return to the country in the coming weeks amid the coronavirus outbreak, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said on May 7.
He also said Bangladesh is also working on repatriating expatriates living in the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines recently announced that passengers will be able to avail their unused tickets until March 14, 2021 while no surcharge will be added for this.
Though Biman Bangladesh Airlines has come up to solve the problems of its clients, other airlines are yet to decide about the booked seats as they have not issued any instruction to their clients yet.