Efforts on to protect jobs of expats

The government has taken various initiatives in a bid to ensure job security of Bangladeshis working in different countries.

The Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry is in continuous talks with concerned authorities of different countries which employ migrant workers from Bangladesh regarding protection of the workers amidst corona virus pandemic.

The Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) sources said that currently more than one crore Bangladeshis are working in different countries of the world. A part of them, many also work on contract basis. The number of such undocumented workers is in the millions who do not have any valid documents to claim their legal job status. Most of them work on a daily basis.

Many such workers face deportation as they do not have valid papers to show they are legally staying there. Meanwhile, it is learnt that many countries have finally decided to send such illegal workers back to their own countries. Most countries in the Middle East, in particular, have made such a decision.

On the other hand, more than one lakh workers will return from the Maldives. At present, the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry is bringing back workers from the Middle East and Maldives on special flights. A large part of those, who lost their jobs, worked on contract basis.

However, millions of Bangladeshi workers have also lost their jobs in the world labor market due to the deadly corona virus. Quite a lot of them have now returned to the country. Many more are waiting to return. This information has been published by various organizations related to immigrants.

People engaged in long-time manpower business feared that such a large number of returning people will not be able to work in the country. However, the government is saying that they will provide them with employment on easy terms loans.

Companies from different countries have canceled contracts of several lakh workers due to the corona crisis situation. In addition, a large portion of those who were legally employed have also lost their jobs. They are now waiting to return to the country.

The loss of jobs of such a large number of migrant workers will be a great loss for Bangladesh. The remittance sector, one of the main sources of income, will collapse.

Meanwhile, five Asian civil society groups and trade unions have called for the establishment of an interim international justice system to protect the rights of the migrant workers in the wake of the Covid-19 epidemic.

Meanwhile, the secretary at the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, Ahmed Munirus Saleheen said that loans will be given to repatriate workers. About 7 lakh workers from different countries have already returned to the country.

He said, “We do not yet know the exact number of workers who we expect to return during the corona virus period. The government has announced easy loans to help workers who have already returned from abroad due to corona virus and those who will return. The Prime Minister made such an announcement and the ministry is implementing it.”

He said, “An inter-ministerial meeting at the secretary level of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment has been held to discuss the issue. The issue has been discussed in several meetings. The secretaries have agreed on the issue in all the inter-ministerial meetings. The kind of incentives that the government is giving in other sectors are also being given to the returnees. The loan facility will be given to the expatriate returnees following the guidelines of Bangladesh Bank.”

Ahmed Munirus Saleheen had previously been serving as additional secretary to the same ministry.

According to sources, about 5 million expatriates work in different countries in the Middle East. Last year, about 90 percent of the workers who went abroad went to the Middle East. Malaysia, Singapore, Maldives and Italy are the largest concentration of expatriates outside the Middle East. All these countries are infected with corona virus.

Everyone is under house arrest there. Those who are involved in small businesses are afraid of losing capital. Expatriates from these countries said that all work outside is closed. They are spending days with a small deposit and in danger of facing a big crisis ahead.

Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury, secretary general of the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), which is an association of recruiting agencies of migrant workers in Bangladesh, said that it is important for expatriates to be safe first. BAIRA is working closely with the government to help the victims.

He said, “The biggest reality is that millions of workers have lost their jobs in different countries. They are waiting to return to the country. Some are also living a life of confusion without getting any job in the respective countries.”

Dr CR Abrar (Coordinator, Ramru) the Migrant Forum in Asia recently said that according to the International Labor Organization, 195 million people worldwide will lose their jobs due to corona virus. Of these, about 5 million workers in the Middle East will lose their jobs and a large portion of whom will be migrant workers.

He added, “Since the onset of the epidemic, thousands of Asian workers from around the world have returned to their homeland. This number will increase many times in a few months. Especially the number of returnees to India, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Philippines.”

Moreover, Bangladesh has urged the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to take necessary steps so that Bangladeshi workers do not need to return home losing their jobs there amid the coronavirus pandemic. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen made the request during a telephone conversation with his UAE counterpart on previous Wednesday.

The foreign minister mentioned that Bangladeshi workers played a very significant role in the overall development of the UAE. He said it needs to be ensured that a worker is given six months’ salaries and other benefits if he or she lost job in current situation.

UAE foreign minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan assured Bangladesh that the UAE government would take required measures to this end. The UAE minister assured that bilateral partnership and cooperation between Bangladesh and the UAE would be stronger in the future.

Bangladesh foreign minister also sought support of the UAE in forming the “Covid-19 Recovery and Response Fund” to help migrant workers who are in troubles in different countries due to lockdown amid the pandemic. Besides, he suggested that the UAE could utilize Bangladeshi expatriate workers in further development of its agriculture sector.

As the current chair of OIC, the UAE sought Bangladesh’s support in bringing reforms in the OIC’s management, manpower and financial structure. Momen thanked the UAE for sending medical supplies to help Bangladesh deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Earlier, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad said in a meeting that talks were on with ministers of different countries to provide job security to Bangladeshi workers and save the international labor market in the post-corona virus situation.

The minister said the government has given highest priority in protecting Bangladeshi migrant workers currently living in different countries. He said his ministry and officials of Bangladesh missions abroad are maintaining round-the-clock contact with the expatriates.