16 migrant rights bodies on Sunday urged the government to increase allocation for returnee migrants and migration sector during this COVID-19 pandemic.
In a joint statement, they said that the proposed budget for FY 2020-2021 had little attention to allocate specific funds for the migrant workers and their families.
The organizations include OKUP, BNSK, BRAC, IID, WARBE, INAFI, BOMSA, BASUG, KARMOJIBI NARI, MJF, BNPS, DEVCOM, IMA , AWAJ FOUNDATION ,Migration news and FILMS 4 PEACE Foundation, according to a press release.
The human rights bodies said that remittance was one of the main driving forces of Bangladesh's economy and Bangladeshi migrant workers remitted TK 1,380 billion in the last FY 2018-19, while TK 1,387 in FY 2019-20.
Even during this global crisis, the migrants did not stop sending money back home. However, the national budget allocated Tk 641 crore for the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment for FY2020-21, which was one of the lowest allocations.
‘Since, migrant workers were hit hard by this global health crisis so the government should allocate more funds for the welfare of migrant workers,’ the statement said.
The organizations reminded that the COVID-19 pandemic left millions of Bangladeshi migrant workers jobless worldwide. ‘Almost all of them are facing immense troubles. Even the government fears that about 10 lakhs Bangladeshi workers are at the risk of deportation due to the loss of their jobs.’
They mentioned that around 1.5 lakh workers—who were supposed to be migrated soon—couldn't go abroad because of the global lockdown and they were facing an uncertain future.
In the meantime, the World Bank forecasted the global unemployment rate to increase and the World Bank also projected a 22 percent drop in Bangladesh's remittance earnings. ‘But national budget has not adequately addressed any of these issues.’
They noted that the migrant workers were yet to get incentives announced by the government for the different categories of people including those affected by covid-19. ‘Many migrants’ families have been facing dire economic crisis including food shortage.’
In addition to the allocation of Tk 641 for the EWOE Ministry, the proposed Budget also allocated Tk 500 crore as soft loan for the returnee migrant workers through the Probashi Kalyan Bank.
‘The amounts are grossly inadequate compared to the contribution of the migrant workers to the economy, and their needs.’
They also noted that the government increased allocation for the social safety net programme and proposed to widen the coverage but despite substantial demands, the issue of inclusion of the migrant workers and their families into the social safety net program has yet been addressed.
The migrants organizations said that there was no clear plan in the Finance Minister’s budget speech about the livelihoods for the influx of returnees who were projected to be returned due to covid-19 pandemic, “which is disappointing.”
The migrant rights organizations on behalf of the affected returnee migrant workers and their families proposed three following demands to the government for consideration and inclusion in the budget for the FY 2020-2021:
• Allocate minimum TK 1000 crore for the vulnerable returnee migrant workers and the families under the proposed amount of the social safety net programmes for the FY 2020-2021
• Ensure proper rehabilitation and sustainable employment for the affected migrant workers and the families through allocation of necessary amount to the development budget of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment
• Make double the current 2% incentive rate provided on the remittances sent by the migrant workers