Expats return home have no source of income now: Brac


About 87 percent of the migrant workers who returned to Bangladesh due to coornavirus pandemic lockdown have no source of income at the moment, according to a survey by Brac.

Thirty-three percent can live by their savings for three months or more while 52 percent said they need emergency financial assistance.

 Brac Migration Programme conducted the telephone survey styled "Impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the lives and livelihoods of returnee migrants” among 558 migrants who have returned to Bangladesh during January to March.

 Of them 92 percent were male.

The survey also looked at the mental health aspect of them and found that they are suffering from depression, anxiety and many other psychological conditions.

Head of Brac Migration Programme Shariful Hasan at the virtual release of the survey on Friday said it was done to find out the current situation of the returnees, their crises, and the impact the pandemic had made on their lives and livelihood.

He appreciated that the government for announcing easy loans for migrants to start work, but said both government and non-government organisations must work together in this crisis.

“They (expatriates) have always kept our economy afloat. Even now (during the pandemic), they are sending money from abroad. So we should help them,” he said, adding that many might not know what to do with the financial aid or how to start a business.

 “We should help them,” he said.

Forty percent of the respondents said they had to come back due to the pandemic while 35 percent returned on leave or vacation, but are now uncertain over their return, 7 percent mentioned Covid-19 did not influence their return and 18 percent said they came back due to personal and family issues and for other reasons.

Forty-five percent of the respondents came from Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait. About 12 percent returned from Malaysia.

 Eighty-six percent of the respondents came back to the country in March. Among them, 62 percent returned in the first two weeks of March and 24 percent in the remaining weeks. Some 14 percent of the respondents returned between January and February.

 Brac made five recommendations for their well-being.

Those include – 1. Stigmatization and discrimination can negatively impact the ability of migrants to integrate into the society. More Inclusive and supportive environment should be ensured for the returnees by the cumulative efforts of the government, civil society organisations, private sectors and local communities.

2. Government should extend social protection coverage and safety net programmes either in the form of cash or in-kind goods and services to smooth consumption and prevent falls into the poverty.

3. Sustainable reintegration programme including psycho-social support should be launched for the returnees assessing their short- and long-term vulnerabilities and making easily accessible customized loan products to upon return of expatriate workers for engaging them into the income generating activities.

4. Government should start negotiation with the destination countries, to stop forced return of the expatriate workers during the time of COVID-19; and through the diplomatic initiatives, visa and work permit of the returnees should be extended for them who are unable to fly back to workplace because of the travel restriction.

5. Government should increase budget allocation for the expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry to ensure the welfare of the migrants and their family members and emphasise their inclusion into the government programme and policies in responding to the shock of COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 10 million Bangladeshi work in abroad.

COVID-19 is creating huge impacts on their lives and the economy of the country as well.

Thousands of them already been infected by the coronavirus and 600 already have passed away and many others are at risk to get infected, as workers mostly stay in a mass group in the tiny spaces.

Millions are also in the uncertainty to lose their job due to the global economic recession.

Still they are remitting money. They sent around $1.29 billion at home in March. The figure is, however, the lowest in last 15 months and 12.84 percent less than February.

Those who retuned are not sure whether they will be able to go back again and join their job. So, they are passing their days with anxiety and depression.  Many of them are facing challenges to maintain their day to day to life.

The survey was conducted on the migration prone 13 districts which are Dhaka, Munshigonj, Shariatpur, Tangail, Narshingdi, Cumilla, Noakhali, Sylhet, Sunamgonj, Sirajgonj, Rangur, Jashore, and Khulna.

The survey was conducted using a mobile phone and the data was collected on a laptop using the google form platform.

“I have already spent all of my savings and now depending on my family and relatives. I don’t know about my future and passing days with anxiety and depression,” Jakir Hossain said during the telephone survey.

 He has returned home from Qatar in March.