Abul Kalam Azad, a diploma engineer from Gafargoan upazila of Mymensingh district has been living in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana since 1987. His wife and two children also live with him. He migrated to this South African country on his own initiative. He did not take immigration clearance from the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET). Therefore no information of his overseas job has been recorded with Bangladesh government. In 2014 when he came to the Ministry of Expatriate’s Welfare and Overseas Employment to seek permission to avail the opportunities of the Wage Earners Welfare Board (WEWB) fund, they denied his request as his passport had no clearance from the BMET.
There are millions of Bangladeshis like Azad, scattered across the world whose job information and identities remain unrecognized. However, those Bangladeshis still continue sending their hard earned remittances back home over the years keeping the national economy vibrant.
Over 11 million Bangladeshi workers have so far left the country for 162 countries manpower clearance from the BMET since 1976. WEWB fund has been formed with their contributions. Under government’s regulations the fund has been used to ensure welfare of the Bangladeshi migrant workers and their family members at home and abroad. Although there are uncounted numbers of Bangladeshis, it is generally presumed that another 11 millions have left for overseas destination without enlisting their names with BMET.
Considering their contributions and welfare, the government has taken pragmatic programme of enlisting these uncounted Bangladeshis abroad like Azad who are called ‘Bangladeshi Diaspora,’ By getting them registered, they would be member of the WEWB and will be entitled to enjoy all welfare services of the board.
Bangladeshi Diaspora will need to pay foreign currencies equivalent to Tk 3,500 each as registration fee and the fees would be included with the WEWB fund. By this process they could play significant role in boosting the fund of the welfare board.
In June, 2017, Minister for Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Nurul Islam has formally inaugurated the registration of Bangladeshi Diaspora in Greece and Italy. Apart from enlisted migrant workers, there are many Bangladeshi citizens in Greece and Italy, working without manpower clearance from BMET. Because of the registration process they now can enjoy the opportunities of WEWB.
Later in August, a high level team of the ministry visited Australia to formally open the registration of Bangladeshi Diaspora in Australia. Bangladesh officials along with Bangladesh High Commission in Canberra would communicate the Bangladesh communities to encourage them to be registered with the WEWB.
According to the census in 2012, there are around 53,000 Bangladeshis in Australia mainly in the states of New South Wales and Victoria, with large concentrations in the cities of Sydney and Melbourne.
As the registration programme continues on online, the Bangladeshi origin people living and working in any country of the world can get them registered with WEWB to get the welfare services.
The WEWB is now giving welfare services to migrant workers from their pre-departure stage to the returning stage either alive or dead from the destination countries. WEWB render services to migrant workers including financial assistance to the deceased migrant workers’ families, bringing and burial cost of dead bodies and realization of compensations and other dues from the employers etc. Scholarships to the children of migrant families aer also given by the WEWB.
Under the ongoing government registration programme, Bangladeshis abroad can be registered by paying the fixed welfare fees. Bangladeshi diaspora are being included in the database of migrant workers for providing due facilities by the WEWB. Bangladeshis abroad have been requested to get themselves registered online with Bangladesh missions abroad or the WEWB. Online applications of diaspora registrations are available at http://www.wewb.gov.bd/. The registration form has been posted on the website of the welfare board for the benefit of the diaspora who would receive a computer generated certificate as soon as they deposit the fees online.
It was reported that there were a little number of Bangladeshi Diaspora registered primarily. The cause of poor response may have been the lack of campaigns among the Bangladeshis abroad. Some wrong perceptions about the registration among the expatriates Bangladeshis may also be the reason. Massive campaigns through print, electronic and social media should be taken to make aware Bangladeshi Diaspora abroad about the opportunity and facilities of registration. As the registration is based on online software, sufficient number of IT technicians should be recruited for dealing the registrations at home and abroad. To get better output from the programme, the financial transactions made by the Bangladeshis abroad should be transparent.
Khadiza Akhter is senior information officer at Press Information Department.