As the entire world is grappling with coronavirus pandemic, around 1.5 lakh Bangladeshi workers, who returned home from different countries, are facing a bleak future as they are not sure whether they will be able to return to their workplaces.
Besides, the country is likely to suffer a sharp fall in remittance inflow as almost all Bangladeshi expatriates around the world remain unemployed under the prevailing situation.
The Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, however, said the workers who cannot go abroad right now will be able to leave for destinations later.
Shariful Hasan, head of the BRAC Migration programme, told UNB that around 4 lakh people came to Bangladesh from abroad in the past two months of which around 1 lakh are Bangladeshi expatriates.
"Of them, 41,000 came from Saudi Arabia, 38,000 from the UAE, 19,000 from Malaysia, 14,000 from Qatar, 12,000 from Singapore, 12,000 from Oman, 6,000 from Kuwait, 3,000 from Bahrain, 3,000 from Italy, 1,500 from the Maldives, 900 from Germany, 600 from France and rest from other countries,” he added.
Every month, 50,000-60,000 people go abroad from Bangladesh and the number is around 6-7 lakh a year, he said, adding that the overseas employment is now closed following the coronavirus outbreak.
Shariful said most of the 10 million Bangladeshi expatriates earn on a daily basis. “Only 2 percent of them hold professional jobs. They’re paid well while the rest are left without pay at the moment,” he added.
He said the government should devise a plan from now on to help send back workers who are unable to go abroad due to the coronavirus outbreak and assist those who are in trouble abroad.
The recruiting agencies in Bangladesh are also facing huge losses as they cannot send workers abroad which forced Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) to seek assistance from the government.
Baira Secretary General Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman told UNB that around 1.5 lakh workers were supposed to go to different countries in the last two months. "Some of them had completed all the processes while some received visas and some others had confirmed tickets. But they couldn’t go abroad because of the global coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
He said about 20,000 female workers were to be sent abroad in the past 2-3 months. “We’d spent a good chunk to make their passports and for other costs like medical passes, medical clearance, police clearance and brokers' payment. We won't get it back and we’re expected to get the money from the employers abroad. Now, we won’t get this money from the employers under the current situation," he added.
Noman also said the intending workers who paid money earlier will seek their amounts back but they are in no way to return those. “About 1,400 recruiting agencies are facing losses.”
"On average, each agency employs 10 people. The minimum wage for each staff is Tk 15,000. So, an amount of Tk 21 crore is required to pay their salary. It’s not possible right now to pay so much money," he said.
Noman said the government should announce a similar stimulus for recruiting agencies like the RMG sector to overcome the crisis.
Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Selim Reza said workers who could not travel to different countries due to the global coronavirus pandemic will be able to leave later. "We’ve had meetings with all the embassies over the issue," he said.
Asked about Baira's demand for incentives, he said it rests solely on the government. "The decision is for the government to take," he said.