The Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP) has expressed concerns at the decision by some labour receiving countries to send back so-called undocumented Bangladeshi migrant workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It is “inhuman, cruel and unjust”, the organisation said in a statement on Sunday. OKUP said the move would affect the lives of numerous migrants and their families.
The organisation noted that Bangladesh is currently not in a position to receive the huge number of migrant workers. “We strongly protest the decision taken by some labour receiving countries,” it said.
OKUP said the migrant workers are victims of the whole recruitment system, primarily the ‘kafala’ or ‘sponsorship’ recruitment system. It said migrant workers contribute a lot to the overall development of the countries of destination.
“We appeal to the governments of those labour receiving countries to annul their decision at this moment of global COVID-19 pandemic,” the organisation said.
Expatriate Bangladeshi workers sent back $16.42 billion in remittance in the 2018-19 fiscal year. In the first two months of this year, expatriates sent back $3.1 billion.
OKUP recommend Bangladesh to prepare a multi-year plan for the repatriation of its ‘undocumented migrant workers’ and carry out strong negotiation and lobby with the government of those countries for their cooperation in systematic repatriation rather than a sudden ‘push back’.
Bangladesh can raise the issue in the regional platform of labour sending countries like ‘Colombo Process’ and seek their cooperation to deal with the concerns jointly.
“We recommend that the government must prepare a comprehensive ‘Plan of Action’ for short-term, mid-term and long-term reintegration and livelihoods of the returnees,” OKUP said.
The short-term plan may include emergency supports upon return; the mid-term is to assist the returnees in starting alternative income generation activities while the long-term mega-plan should focus on creating sustainable livelihoods for all Bangladeshi workers in the changing global economic landscape caused by the impact of COVID-19.
Ministries, departments, development partners, and other stakeholders including migrants’ organisations could work together in this regard, it said.
“We draw due attention of the government of Bangladesh for a sincere assessment and review of the whole recruitment system, take necessary actions to ensure improved recruitment system, and make sure accountability of key actors in the recruitment practices in the post COVID-19 era,” OKUP said.
“We want equal protection and services for the migrant workers irrespective of their status in all countries of destination in this pandemic situation of COVID -19,” the organisation said.