Migrant workers of Bangladesh were profoundly affected due to the pandemic throughout 2020 and 2021.
The sector regained its previous state after overcoming a lot of challenges. However, it is feared that the increasing cases of Omicron across the world would put the lives of the country’s migrant workers in uncertainty again.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), a total of 617,209 Bangladeshi migrant workers were employed in different countries in 2021.
From January 2021 to October 2021 the number of migrant workers going abroad was limited to 35,000-65,000 per month due to lockdowns and restrictions imposed during that time to curb coronavirus.
Overseas employment saw a new record in the last two months of 2021.
Data shows that 102,861 migrant workers in November and 131,316 workers were employed abroad in December of 2021.
Talking to Bangladesh Post, Dr Chowdhury Rafiqul Abrar, Executive Director of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) and Professor of the Department of International Relations at Dhaka University said that a lot of issues regarding migration amid pandemic need to be addressed.
“Many migrant workers had to suffer and cancel flights last year due to delay in getting vaccines when Covid cases were on the rise. Coordination among agencies and ministries should be strengthened. Foreign missions should also play a proactive role regarding the conditions imposed on our migrant workers. It is about time we make up for our past mistakes,” he added.
Shakirul Islam, Chairman of grassroots migrant rights organisation Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP) echoed the same.
He told Bangladesh Post that we should be prepared from now on to face any kind of challenges that might surface following the Omicron surge.
“As Omicron cases are increasing across the world including Bangladesh, many countries will now impose some tougher restrictions. Last year when migrant workers started going back to their workplaces, they had to face many obstacles to fulfill the conditions imposed by the foreign countries,” he said.
He further said that although most of the issues were resolved in phases, it would have been better if they could be solved immediately.
“The scope of negotiation should be ensured from our end in terms of imposing restrictions so that they cannot impose restrictions inconsiderately,” he added.
Mentioning that as we might have to face a similar situation like last year due to the Covid surge, he said, “It should also be ensured that all the returnee migrants are brought under the government’s reintegration project.”