Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
Published: 2020-08-12 23:04:16 BdST
The returnees experience reintegration challenges, including difficulties in securing employment, financial problems such as lack of income and accumulating debt, and health-related issues, the UN agency said in a report released in coordination with the government on Wednesday.
It said unplanned and large-scale returns of unemployed migrant workers affect remittance-dependent communities across the country where each migrant worker supports three members of his or her household on average.
The report listed findings from interviews with a total of 2,765 return migrants, including 1,486 people, who returned from abroad between February and June 2020, and 1,279 internal return migrants.
The survey was conducted under a project funded by the European Union in May and July 2020 in 12 high migration-prone districts, seven of which share a border with India.
Since March 2020, hundreds of thousands of international migrant workers were compelled to return to their home districts in Bangladesh due to limited access to income-generating activities, social services, healthcare systems and social support networks in the countries in which they were working prior to the outbreak of COVID-19.
A total of 64 percent of international migrants indicated that following the COVID-19 outbreak they struggled to access information and health services in the countries in which they were working in.
A total of 29 percent of respondents indicated they had returned to Bangladesh because they were asked to leave the country they were in while 23 percent reported that they were worried about COVID-19 and wished to return to their families.
Moreover, 26 percent of respondents reported that they had returned because their families had asked them to, and nine percent returned because they were told that the borders were going to be closed and they were worried that they would be left stranded.
At the time of the interviews, a total of 55 percent of the respondents who had returned from abroad had accumulated unpaid debt.
The respondents owed a debt to family and friends (55 percent) and to micro-finance institutions (MFIs), Self Help Groups and NGOs (44 percent) and moneylenders (15 percent).
In total, 86 percent of debt owed to family and friends was charged at zero interest, while over 65 percent of debt owed to MFIs, NGOs and private banks carried an interest rate of between 10 and 15 percent.
The interest on 62 percent of debt owed to money lenders was charged between 50 and 150 percent.
“This research will support Government-led efforts to develop evidence-based strategies to ensure sustainable reintegration for returning migrants,” said Giorgi Gigauri, chief of mission of IOM in Bangladesh.
“During this pandemic, research will support the development of responsive, migrant-centred approaches essential for the support and protection of vulnerable migrants. We should work together to reintegrate migrants into their communities,” he added.
During the interviews, respondents were asked about their future aspirations.
Almost 75 percent of respondents reported that they want to re-migrate and 97 percent of those migrants would choose to go back to the same country in which they were working prior to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Meanwhile, 60 percent of respondents were interested in upgrading their skill set to secure better-paid jobs.