According to a study on return migrants in 12 districts in Bangladesh, approximately 70 per cent of surveyed migrants who returned from abroad between February and June 2020, are unemployed.
The study findings are presented in the report, “Rapid Assessment of Needs and Vulnerabilities of Internal and International Return Migrants in Bangladesh”. According to the report, return migrants experienced reintegration challenges which included difficulties in securing employment, financial problems (lack of income and accumulating debt), and health-related issues. Unplanned, large-scale returns of unemployed migrant workers affect remittance-dependent communities across the country where each migrant worker supports three members of his/her household on average.
The report, released in coordination with the Government of Bangladesh, listed findings from interviews with a total of 2,765 return migrants, including 1,486 international return migrants and 1,279 internal return migrants. The survey was conducted in May and July 2020 in 12 high migration-prone districts, seven of which share a border with India.
Migrant workers are particularly vulnerable to the impact of the COVID-19 crisis, and 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 per cent 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 per cent of respondents indicated they had returned to Bangladesh because they were asked to leave the country they were in, and 23 per cent reported that they were worried about COVID-19 and wished to return to their families. Moreover, 26 per cent of respondents reported that they had returned because their families had asked them to, and nine per cent 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 per cent of the respondents who had returned from abroad had accumulated unpaid debt. The respondents owed debt to family and friends (55%) and to micro-finance institutions (MFIs), Self Help Groups and NGOs (44%) and moneylenders (15%). In total, 86 per cent of debt owed to family and friends was charged at zero interest, while over 65 per cent of debt owed to MFIs, NGOs and private banks carried an interest rate of between 10 to 15 per cent, and the interest on 62 per cent of debt owed to money lenders was charged between 50 to 150%.
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. 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.”
During the interviews, respondents were asked about their future aspirations. Almost 75 per cent of respondents reported that they want to re-migrate and 97 per cent 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 per cent of respondents were interested in upgrading their skill set to secure better paid jobs.
On 10 August, 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)’.