Global Forum & Bangladesh: The Situation and Obligations of Bangladesh Migrants

Sheikh Nasir Ahmed, Global Education Magazine Sheikh Nasir Ahmed

Graduat, University of Rajshahi, Bangladesh

e-mail: sheikhnasirahmed@gmail.com

Abstract: With an area of 147,570 square km, Bangladesh is overpopulated with 140 million people. Less than half of its population is said to live below poverty level. A high rate of unemployment and the demand for foreign exchange has led to government policies to promote migration of workers to labor deficit countries. But we think with importance that Migrant worker issues are most important for our social, economical, education & development.

Key words: Bangladesh, Poverty, Government Policies, Migration, Social Development, Economic Development, Education.

Number and destinations of Bangladeshi migrant workers:

Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) Bangladesh records show that from 1976 where Bangladeshi oversees worker was 6087 (Six thousands eighty seven), whereas in present in 2006 according to the records of BMET it reached 377591(Three Lakhs seventy Seven Five Hundred Ninety one). During this precarious process, migrants encounter risks and challenge, including fraud and deception by recruiters and abuse, exploitation and physical and sexual intimidation from employers in host countries. Currently Bangladeshi workers are migrating to more than 100 countries. Between 2002 and 2006, an average of 275000 Bangladeshi workers left the country for temporary overseas employment. The number rose to 377591 in 2006.

But in these migrant worker there have only 1.05 are documented (with legal papers) and rest of them in GCC countries (e.g. in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait). Besides these GCC countries, Bangladeshi’s are working now in Korea, Laos, Brunei, Libya, Malaysia, Mauritania, Singapore, and Japan. In Bangladesh, female migrant constitute only 1% up to 2004. After 2004 type of trend is changed and achieved about 5%.

According to the record of BMET in 2000 Bangladeshi migrants sent remittance to Bangladesh 1.95 Billion US Dollar. But in 2006 it was increased 5.48 Billion US Dollar. But now besides GCC countries Bangladeshi migrant workers of USA, UK European and from other countries especially South East Asia are also sent their remittance legally. It is very important that in 2006 according to the record of BMET the quantity of remittances of oversees migrant workers was more than nine times larger than the foreign direct Investment received the same year. It is significance example for Bangladesh if awareness is build up to send remittance in Bangladesh legally or properly it will become strong economical growth for Bangladesh. Some seminar it is pointed out that the flow of remittance could be double to $12 billion from existing 5.48 billion if procedural complicacies were removed and Bank branches were brought under electronic connectivity. Bangladesh is a major country of origin for this temporary labor migration between 1976 and April 2007, 4.55 Million Bangladeshis went abroad to work as temporary labor migrants. According to the information of The Honorable Advisor Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed, in 2007 January to November 521171 migrants went abroad for job. Cumulatively, they remitted US dollar 5.99 billion during 2006-07 fiscal year.

According to World Migration Report, Bangladeshis have migrated to different parts of the world, over the last six decades. It is difficult to establish absolute figures, since a large number of undocumented workers go overseas through irregular channels and may not be recorded as workers. All the macro level, remittance plays a key role. In 2006, total remittance was equivalent to 11 per cent of GDP. It was estimated that remittance accounted for 35 per cent of export earnings and are the country’s single largest source of foreign currency.

Job nature:

Bangladeshi workers are employed as labor especially in Constitutions sector, garments factory, business center etc. In the years 1996-1999, only 4236 women had been registered as overseas workers with the BMET. It is not possible to assess the number of women migrant workers from Bangladesh. Since the government ban on women migration for domestic work, an irregular migration of women has been taking place from Bangladesh. Upon irregular migration women workers lose their bargaining capacity and their undocumented status makes them victim of force labor physical and sexual abuse.

Labor laws in the country of employment do not protect migrant workers from Bangladesh. In fact they become vulnerable to racist and discriminatory state policies of host countries. In the absence of bilateral agreements between the Bangladesh government and the receiving countries, they are exploited in terms of wages, job security, work conditions, accommodation, Leave, Medical, Period of contact, Maternity leave for woman workers, Working hour, access to social welfare service etc. Generally recruiting agencies in Bangladesh do not have any connection with employers or accurate information to appraise employment trends in receiving countries.

National legal and policy framework:

The Immigration Ordinance 1982 is only the key instrument regarding migration of Bangladeshi workers. But it is concerned with procedural aspects of immigration rather than protection and welfare of migrant workers. Under section 24 of this ordinance a migrant worker is liable to imprisonment if he/she returns home without completing terms of his/her employment. This is violation of all norms and rights. Another setback is that the migrant workers do not have the right to seek direct legal redress. Only government can lodge complaints for violation of provisions of the ordinance. But the recruitment agencies are quite influential and have been able to procure privileges from the government. As a result the government against the recruitment agency has filed no case.

The Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) is responsible for registration of migrant workers, gathering information on labor market, controlling recruiting agencies, issuing clearance to migrant workers and facilitating the repatriation of migrant workers. But there is no monitoring system upon these functions whether the functions are going on or not.

In these circumstances to reserve and to protect Oversees Migrant Workers Rights & the rights of their family, United Nations passed a convention at 18 December in 1990. As usual Bangladesh signed in that convention at 07.10.98 but still not ratify it. So Bangladeshi Migrants people who are in problem according to deceleration of UN convention, they could not claim and deceived/Deprived from their rights from receiving country.

As a result Bangladeshi migrant workers face problems at different phases:

Levying of invalid charges:

  • Traveling under false documents
  • Undercutting of wages
  • False recruitment to non existing company
  • Repatriation (Illness, War, Conflict) without any penny
  • Oppression by employers as well as law enforcing agencies
  • Forced to do extra work without over time, paid irregularly.
  • Harassment by immigration authorities
  • Detention by transit authorities
  • Deportation
  • Expulsion
  • Loss of goods at airport
  • Forced extortion
  • Cheated of their savings

According to news reports several daily newspapers published on January-November 2006 that a total of 5585 Bangladeshis are languishing in the prison of 42 countries all over the world. But it is not a confirm source. It is logically that now it is increased a lot of. The cabinet committee of Bangladesh asked the foreign ministry to direct the Bangladeshi mission concerned to arrange legal aid for the Bangladeshis languishing in foreign prisons through legal aid organizations working in the respective countries.

1. What we can do:

Over the last two decades Bangladesh has experienced positive economic social and change. Migration, both internal and international is very important livelihood strategy of the people of Bangladesh.

But none of the actors in development field think migration as a poverty reduction tool and attempted to manage migration with comprehensive policy and action.

If migration is efficiently managed through long term policy it may play an important role in reducing poverty in different ways:

Firstly: migration may reduce the poverty of individual.

Secondly: migration may reduce the poverty of households and communities.

Thirdly: It may contribute to enhance the economic development of the country by initiation of remittances.

2. Key policy Gaps and Recommendations.

In recent time international migration is decreasing for factors operating both in the receiving countries and also in Bangladesh.

However, globalization encourages and facilitates migration but artificial restriction on the movement of migration and increased cost of migration hinder the poor to get benefit from migration.

The successive government of Bangladesh has underscored the importance of labor migration. However, it identifies some areas where specific policy changes are needed. These are discussed below.

The Immigration Act 1922 was replaced through the promulgation of a new Emigration Ordinance 1982. Since 1980 global labor migration process has experienced major changes. The demand for female labor has increased. The UN International convention on Rights of All Migrant Workers and members of their families seek to protect the rights of the migrant workers. The Emigration ordinance 1982 does not reflect the current reality of the labor market, nor does it reflect the right-based approach.

Successive Bangladesh government’s policy either puts a complete ban or imposing restriction on migration of certain categories of women contribute a lot to irregular migration and to a large extent, made potential women migrants vulnerable to poor working conditions and trafficking.

International labor migration is the highest foreign exchange earning sector. However, the ministry in charge of managing this sector suffers from severe lack of resources including weakly trained manpower and equipment in the training institute. Instead of going through the govt. official clearance process, in many instances, migration is taking place through the recruiting agencies. A mechanism for effective inter-ministerial and inter-agency coordination is yet to emerge. Institutional arrangements are yet to be worked out for incorporating migrant workers association and other civil society organizations in policy formulation regarding migration. Due to emergence of a system of selling and purchasing visas by intermediaries in Bangladesh, it becomes near impossible for the poor to migrate. In order to overcome the above-mentioned gaps, some policy recommendations are suggested below.

3. Recommendations.

3.1.1.1) Government, migrant workers, civil society organizations and the private sector collectively need to shape a comprehensive migration policy reflecting all kinds of migration, i.e. short-terms, long-term and irregular migration within South Asia. The policy has to reflect the right based approach of 1990 UN convention. The policy should strive to ensure enabling environment for the poor who choose to migrate. A motional action plan has to be framed to identify roles and functions of Government, non-government and private sector in implementing the policy.

Bangladesh govt. has signed the UN convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families. It has missed the opportunity to be the twentieth country to accede to the treaty that has made the convention comes into force. As a labor sending country, it is in Bangladesh interest to accede to the convention immediately and frame necessary enabling motional legislation.

The policy of legal restriction on migration of unskilled women needs to the reevaluated in the light of the reality that it has given way to undocumented migration of women.

3.2.1.4) Different measures including credit facility for the poor have to be undertaken to overcome the constraints in the way of migration of poor people.

3.2.1.5) In 2001 the then Interim Govt. prepared a policy and strategy guideline for streamlining the labor recruitment process. The committee is to be constituted with representatives of different in this regard ministry, public and private banking and business sector, recruiting agencies, migrant groups, researchers and persons of repute integrity. The committee may act as inter-ministerial agency watchdog with legal authority to monitor the progress of implementation of the comprehensive national migration policy. In addition Government can get the decision to collect the cost of all kinds of fees of Migration By Bank or any other Government Agencies in accurately.

4. Recommendations for managing different types of migrations:

4.1) Short term Migration:

4.1.1) In spite of all governmental efforts, the 1982 Emigration Ordinance has become ineffective to look after the interests of migrant workers. The Ordinance needs to be replaced by a rights based legislation reflecting the 1990 UN convention and other relevant ILO convention.

4.1.2) BMET should be relieved of its functions pertaining to local employment and concentrate its effort on international labor migration. A separate agency may be created under the labor ministry to look after local employment and internal migration.

4.1.3) BMET needs to identify areas of future foreign needs disseminate information to potential training providing organizations. Government should also encourage NGOs and private sector to take up training programs targeted to foreign employment including scholarship to support poor people.

4.1.4) To protect the rights of migrant workers preventive measures should be given equal priority as legal remedy. Irregular migration should be discouraged.

4.1.5) Government should encourage selected specialized agencies, NGO and migrant support groups to impart residential, pre-departure orientation training in different migrants. BMET may prepare a list of selected NGOs where recruiting agents will send their potential migrants to take those training.

The role of foreign missions in labor receiving countries has to be redefined. Protection of the rights of migrant workers should be considered as priority concern. Establishment of a migrant workers resource center may be considered under embassies to provide counseling services, welfare assistance, information and advisory program etc.

4.1.7) Having considered the constraints of opening new branches of nationalized commercial and Private Banks in grass roots sector, the latter may be encouraged to get involved in remittance transfer process. In these matter there can also involved the local established NGOs with the government Laws & regulation with strong monitoring system and easy posses.

4.1.8) To encourage small savers proper incentive programs need to be undertaken and bonds, shares and mutual funds at attractive rates may be offered.

4.1.9) Provisions should be made so that returnee migrants can register in the database, which is being developed by BMET easily. Attractive pro-poor incentive packages for the returnee migrants could be offered.

4.2) Irregular migration within south Asia:

4.2.1) Migration within south Asia is major livelihood strategy for a section of poor men and women. Migration of Bangladeshis to different states of India has become a major area of concern between the two countries. It is important to develop our knowledge in this respect.

Population movement in South Asia is linked to other issues, which are regional in nature. All there issues need to be studied leading to collaborative research to ensure the human rights of irregular migrants.

4.2.4) All the solutions to cope the problems associated with irregular movements of people have to be based on a regional approach.

4.2.5) The government of Bangladesh may strive to engage its counterpart in the region for de-politicizing the issue of movement of people within the region.

4.3) Long-term International Migration:

4.3.1) The Ministry of Expatriate welfare and overseas Employment along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs need to develop a pragmatic plan of action to enter into the labor market of industrialized countries.

4.3.2) Government along with other labor sending countries may engage in dialogues with industrialized space for orderly migration.

4.3.3) In order to link the long term expatriate Bangladeshi with the country’s development process appropriate research is necessary to identity avenues for such linkage.

4.3.4) The government of Bangladesh and the private sector would be able to effectively influence the public policy of the host country in favors of the industries in Bangladesh where internal migrants are employed.

5. Conclusion:

5.1) This report has attempted to capture different aspects of voluntary migration from and within Bangladesh on the basis of available secondary information. The issue that has not received attention in the policy making of labor migration is the issue of inclosing inaccessibility of the rural poor to choose to migrate. Different aspects of migration within South Asia are getting to be properly understood.

5.2) This report suggests various recommendations for efficient management of the Government & Non Governmental sector and to ensure the rights of the poor to benefit from migration.

 

This article was published on January 30th: School Day of Non-violence and Peace in Global Education Magazine

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