Nearly 70 percent of surveyed migrants who returned to Bangladesh between February and June remained unemployed, according to a study covering 12 districts.
The findings are presented in the report, ‘Rapid Assessment of Needs and Vulnerabilities of Internal and International Return Migrants in Bangladesh’, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said in a press release issued on Wednesday.
According to the report, returnee migrants experienced reintegration challenges which included difficulties in securing employment, financial problems such as lack of income and accumulating debt, and health-related issues.
Unplanned, large-scale returns of unemployed migrants affect remittance-dependent communities across the country where each migrant worker supports three members of his/her household on average.
The report was released in coordination with the Bangladesh government. It listed findings from interviews with 2,765 people – 1,486 international returnee migrants and 1,279 internal return migrants.
The survey was conducted in May and July in 12 high migration-prone districts, seven of which share border with India, the IOM press release said.
Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Since March, hundreds of thousands of international migrant workers were forced to return to home due to limited access to income-generating activities, social services, healthcare systems and social support networks in the countries in which they were working.
Sixty-four 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, and 23 percent reported that they were worried about COVID-19 and wished to return to their families.
Moreover, 26 percent 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, 55 percent of the respondents who had returned from abroad had accumulated unpaid debt.
The respondents owed 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 to 15 percent, and the interest on 62 percent of debt owed to money lenders was charged between 50 to 150 percent.
Migration-centered approaches essential
Giorgi Gigauri, Chief of Mission of IOM in Bangladesh, said, “Migrant workers are some of the most vulnerable groups affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Bangladeshi migrant workers and their remittance-dependent communities are adversely impacted by the unprecedented global restrictions on mobility and the COVID-19-induced recession.”
“IOM, as coordinator of the Bangladesh UN Network on Migration, is committed to contributing to the body of evidence on migration in/from Bangladesh. This research will support government-led efforts to develop evidence-based strategies to ensure sustainable reintegration for returning migrants,” he said.
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.
On August 10, IOM hosted a virtual briefing on the findings of the Report which was attended by a range of stakeholders including UN Agencies, I/NGOs, LNGOs and academic organizations from Bangladesh and from the region.
The “Rapid Assessment Needs and Vulnerabilities of Internal and International Return Migrants in Bangladesh” was conducted under the EU-funded project ‘Regional Evidence for Migration Analysis and Policy (REMAP)’.
“During this pandemic, research will support the development of responsive, migrant-centered approaches essential for the support and protection of vulnerable migrants. We should work together to reintegrate migrants into their communities,” said Gigauri.