Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program, a community based migrants’ organization, on Monday called upon the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to announce a social safety net for the families of affected migrant workers and the returnees in the wake of COVID-19.
About 40 per cent of migrant workers are now living in hardship, since the current lockdown in many countries led them to either lose their jobs outright or not having been paid their regular salaries, said OKUP referring to an analysis of calls placed to its helpline over the past one month.
In a press statement OKUP chairman Shakirul Islam on Monday said that as migrants have no longer been able to send money back home, about 25 per cent of the families of migrant workers were now facing a serious economic crisis.
‘Many of them have extremely limited or no access to food, putting them on the brink of starvation. Existing health risks are also worsening due to families’ inability to purchase essential medicines.’
OKUP requested the Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment ministry to take immediate measures to ensure overall welfare, food security, and protection for the migrants’ and families’ left behind.
‘About 2 crores Bangladeshi migrant workers of both irregular and regular status are working in different countries around the world. The hard earned remittances (about 16 billion dollars annually) sent by these workers are the most significant source of economic development in Bangladesh, said the statement.
Many of the migrants have been badly affected by the current crisis. It is estimated that several hundred thousand migrant workers might be forced to come back following the global recession caused by this pandemic.
‘The current situation is already alarming as a lot of migrant workers in the countries of destination have become unemployed or have not been receiving their salaries because of the economic impact of states’ measures related to COVID-19.’
OKUP said that these migrant families were now facing considerable difficulties in accessing emergency support and on the one hand, they were not eligible for inclusion in the ration card list of 50 lakh people announced by the prime minister, ‘since they do not fall into the category of people living below the poverty line.’
OKUP recalled that the prime minister announced a stimulus package of Tk 96,690 crore to ensure food supply for people in need, payment of workers’ salaries, reducing harm to different industries and ensuring agricultural production. It also recalled the government announcement for providing ration cards for five million people to ensure their food security for the next three years but OKUP demanded including migrants and their family members under the safety net coverage.