International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nation’s Migration Agency, provides immediate and mid- to long-term assistance to vulnerable migrants returning from the European Union (EU) countries.
IOM is supporting the Government to plan for the return, reception, and reintegration of a few hundred thousand migrants in 2020 from destination countries globally, including a number from the EU, said a press release issued on Thursday.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), each year, around 600,000 workers migrate from Bangladesh in search of better livelihood opportunities abroad. In 2019, around USD 18 billion was remitted to Bangladesh by migrants.
IOM and partners are concerned that the predicted 22 per cent drop in remittances to South Asia, driven by the global economic slowdown, will have adverse consequences for migrants and remittance dependent communities in Bangladesh.
IOM, in partnership with Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC), is focused on providing assistance to vulnerable migrants returning from EU countries and looking to secure additional funding to assist vulnerable migrants, particularly those returning from Gulf Cooperation Council(GCC) countries where there have been large-scale, sector-wide retrenchments following the decline in oil prices.
With EU support and under the coordination of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment, IOM is assisting migrants stranded abroad and vulnerable migrants that have returned to Bangladesh from the EU.
Support and counselling are provided to callers to hotline (+8809610102030) set-up by IOM for migrants, promoted and accessed through www.probashihelpline.com.
Since March 2020, a total of 111,470 migrants reached out via the website, either through social media interactions or through app-based calls.
Dr. Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, Secretary of Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, said , “Migrants are the frontline soldiers of our national development. It is our priority to ensure the safety and security of migrant workers affected by the pandemic. The Ministry is involved in many initiatives to support migrants.”
Since March 2020, 806 vulnerable migrants, returning from EU countries, have been traced through ten EU funded reintegration service centres that cover 64 districts. Vulnerable migrants are identified, provided with COVID-19-related information, and counselled on how to cope with the adverse impacts of the pandemic, including mobility restrictions, unemployment, and growing debt.
After a needs and vulnerability assessment to identify the most vulnerable, eligible returnees will be provided with an immediate cash grant, long term reintegration support, skills training, and psychosocial counseling support. The provision of tailored assistance will build the resilience of vulnerable migrants to shock events like global health crises, the release added.
According to Rensje Teerink, Ambassador of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, “The Coronavirus pandemic is challenging economic and social systems globally. The European Union stands ready to help governments to address the negative impact of the pandemic - on the short, medium and long term - in particular with the most vulnerable communities which include migrants. Through the EU-funded Prottasha project, we ensure in this new post-Coronavirus reality, that migrants returning to Bangladesh from European Union Member States have all the tools at their disposal to be able to reintegrate themselves into society. Solidarity is at the heart of the European Union.
With a focus on the most vulnerable, the European Union supports its partner countries in delivering essential services and safeguarding livelihoods.”
“Hundreds of thousands of migrants are expected to return to Bangladesh once countries relax restrictions and airlines resume flights. For many of these migrants, it isn’t a happy homecoming as they have lost their source of income and due to the global recession it is unlikely that they will be able to return to work abroad until the global labour market recovers from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our concern is that the most vulnerable of these migrants will require immediate assistance to meet their needs for food, shelter, psychosocial, and health assistance and in the medium to long-term they will require debt mediation assistance, and diversification of livelihoods assistance to build their resilience and ensure sustainable reintegration,” said Giorgi Gigauri, IOM Chief of Mission in Bangladesh.
Efforts to reach migrants within the country are ongoing, BRAC has engaged 100 staff and over 1000 community volunteers in COVID-19 awareness-raising activities.
Asif Saleh, Executive Director of BRAC, said, “Migrants need the right COVID-19 related information at the right time so that they protect themselves and rebuild. In this crisis, migrant workers are suffering tremendously, and we need to prioritize our support for them both at home and abroad.”
In addition to providing support to vulnerable migrants, IOM is supporting the government to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak, build capacity at points of entry, and provide humanitarian support to Rohingya refugees and vulnerable members of the host community in 18 camps and settlements in Cox’s Bazar district.