Sixteen rights bodies urged the government to create a specific fund for the migrant workers and their families as many workers have lost their jobs and were forced to return home due to coronavirus pandemic.
In a joint statement, they also urged the government to increase allocation for the migrant workers in the proposed national budget of 2020-21 to minimize the woes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, said a press release.
The organisations are OKUP, BNSK, BRAC, IID, WARBE, INAFI, BOMSA, BASUG, Karmojibi Nari, MJF, BNPS, DEVCOM, IMA, Awaj Foundation, Migration news and FILMS 4 PEACE Foundation.
The human rights bodies said remittance is one of the main driving forces of Bangladesh's economy and even during the global health crisis they didn’t stop sending back money to the country.
In the proposed national budget Tk 641 crore was allocated for the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment which is one of the lowest, they said.
“We want to remind everyone that the COVID-19 pandemic left millions of Bangladeshi migrant workers jobless worldwide. Almost all of them are facing immense trouble. Even the government fears that about ten lakhs Bangladeshi workers are at the risk of deportation. On the other hand, around 1.5 lakh workers—who were supposed to be migrated soon—couldn't go abroad because of the global lockdown. They are also facing an uncertain future. The World Bank also projected a 22 percent drop in Bangladesh's remittance earnings. But national budget has not adequately addressed any of these issues,” said the statement.
In addition to the allocation of Tk 641 for the ministry, the proposed budget allocated Tk 500 crore as soft loan for the returnee migrant workers through the Probashi Kalyan Bank which is quite inadequate compared to the contribution of the migrant workers to the economy, and their needs, it said.
Despite substantial demands, the issue of inclusion of the migrant workers and their families into the social safety net program is yet to be addressed, it added.
They also proposed allocation of minimum TK 1000 crore fund for the vulnerable returnee migrant workers and the families, ensuring
proper rehabilitation and sustainable employment for the affected migrant workers and doubling the current 2% incentive rate provided on the remittances sent by the migrant workers.