Bangladesh braced to receive hundreds of thousands of returnee migrant workers

Passengers wait in a queue maintaining social distancing as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus to enter the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on June 25, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 29 June 2020

Bangladesh braced to receive hundreds of thousands of returnee migrant workers

  • Government sets up $85m fund to help reintegrate expats into country’s labor market

DHAKA: Bangladesh is bracing itself to receive home hundreds of thousands of migrant workers laid off in their host countries due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

Dr. A. K. Abdul Momen, the Bangladeshi minister of foreign affairs, told Arab News on Sunday that the returning workers would be offered training and financial assistance to help them set up their own enterprises.

“We have created a fund of around $85 million to ease the plight of the returnees. They will be provided with soft loans through the expatriates’ welfare bank to start small businesses here,” he said.

Earlier this month, the International Organization for Migration warned that due to the global economic and labor crises created by the COVID-19 outbreak, hundreds of thousands of migrant workers would be expected to return to Bangladesh by the end of the year. According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), more than 700,000 Bangladeshis left the country last year to work abroad.

The Bangladeshi Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment said it was finalizing the reintegration plan.

“We will have a meeting in this regard on Monday. The returnees will be provided with the necessary training through our technical training centers across the country and later on receive soft loans to get self-employed,” Mosharraf Hossain, additional secretary at the ministry’s planning and development wing, told Arab News.

Shahidul Alam, another ministry additional secretary, said each returnee would receive up to $3,500 without any collateral. “If needed, they will be provided with a fund up to $6,200,” he added.

Data from Bangladesh-based international NGO BRAC indicated that 87 percent of returnees had no alternative sources of livelihood and more than one-third of them would run out of savings in less than three months.

“Almost all of them returned home hastily and were initially promised by employers that they would be returned when the situation became normal. But after several months of the pandemic, now they have little hope of joining their work again anytime soon as employers are not sure when they would be able to resume operations,” said Shariful Hasan, head of the migration program at BRAC.

According to BRAC, around 200,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers returned home between mid-February and mid-March, including 41,000 from Saudi Arabia, 38,000 from the UAE, and 20,000 from other Gulf countries.

Migration experts believe that Bangladeshi missions in the workers’ host countries, especially in the Gulf, should play a more active role in helping them stay in their duty locations.

Between mid-April and mid-June, another 17,000 migrant workers returned to Bangladesh from the Middle East and other Asian countries.

More than 2 million Bangladeshi workers are currently living in Saudi Arabia, which is the most popular destination for them in the Middle East.

The Middle East is also the main source of Bangladesh’s remittances and its second-largest foreign currency source after the garment sector.

Last year, $18.32 billion was transferred by Bangladeshi migrant workers, according to BMET, and 73 percent of remittances were sent from Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

“In this context, Bangladeshi missions in the Middle East should make more synchronized and coordinated efforts to ease the plight of the migrants who are struggling with the pandemic situation in GCC countries,” Hasan said.

Momen said that the Bangladeshi government was trying to help workers stay in their current locations.

“I have already sent letters to the manpower-receiving governments, including the GCC countries, and requested them to employ the Bangladeshi migrants in some alternative sectors, especially in agriculture and fisheries.

“But in case of job termination, I also requested the migrants’ receiving countries to pay the workers six months’ salary as compensation,” he added.

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

Updated 55 min 35 sec ago

UK relatives of Daesh ‘Beatles’ victims relieved as trial nears

  • The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling
  • The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq

LONDON: Relatives of two Britons killed by a Daesh cell on Wednesday welcomed a breakthrough that advances the US trial of two Londoners accused of their brutal deaths.
The families of Alan Henning and David Haines said a ruling by the London High Court permitting the UK government to share evidence with US authorities about the suspects was a “huge result for us.”
“We have only ever wanted to see these two men being held accountable and brought to justice through a fair trial for their alleged actions,” they said in a statement released by the charity Hostage International.
The evidence regarding El Shafee Elsheikh and Alexanda Kotey was transferred to Washington immediately after Tuesday’s court ruling.
The pair, who have been stripped of UK citizenship, are in the custody of US forces in Iraq.
Kotey and Elsheikh’s four-member cell was dubbed “the Beatles” by their captives due to their English accents. They are accused of torturing and killing victims, including by beheading, and Daesh released videos of the deaths for propaganda purposes.
A two-year legal impasse concerning the suspects was broken last month when Attorney General Bill Barr said they would be spared execution if convicted after trial in the United States.
The United States wants to try them for the murder of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and aid worker Peter Kassig, during 2014-2015.
Taxi driver Henning and former aircraft engineer Haines, who had both gone to Syria to do aid work, were beheaded in 2014.
Another of the cell’s alleged victims was British photojournalist John Cantlie, who was kidnapped in Syria in 2012 and remains missing.
Cantlie’s sister Jessica Pocock told of the relatives’ intense frustration at the long legal wait.
“At times we felt absolutely desperate as to whether the legal system was ever going to be able to bring these two to justice — wherever they may be,” she told BBC radio.
“That was always terribly important to us to have a proper, fair trial. The families need nothing less than a fair trial,” she said.
The US Department of Justice welcomed the court ruling and expressed gratitude to Britain for transferring the evidence, although a trial date has yet to be set.