Remittance inflow into the country has been reduced alarmingly although the labour migration increased last year as compared to the year before. Last year's figure was the highest since 2008 when Bangladesh's overseas employment reached 0.88 million.
Bangladesh has received remittances of $12.65 billion from January to November last year. In 2015, the figure was $ 15.31 billion during the same period, according to the annual report of Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU) released last week. Bangladesh remains in the seventh spot but it might have slipped to the 10th position by now.
About 11 per cent of remittance inflow was reduced while labour migration increased by 35 per cent. Nearly 0.75 million workers have got overseas jobs last year while it was about 0.55 million in 2015. The causes of remittance reduction have been identified as fall of oil prices in Middle East, the labours' levy imposed by Malaysian government, and global affairs including US elections and Brexit which dealt a severe blow to the migration process.
The migration of semi-skilled workers, who include housemaids, has increased by five per cent this year. Less than one per cent of migrants have gone abroad in professional categories.
The World Bank Fact book report says remittance inflows through formal channel have decreased but it might have increased through informal channels. The government failed to show success in grooming skilled workers for sending them abroad, the report said.
On the other hand, many workers returned home after being cheated abroad. The government should not avoid responsibility of protecting the deceived migrant workers. It should check the syndicate of criminals who have been cheating the migrants.
The highest amount of remittance came from Saudi Arabia followed by the United Arab Emirates (USE), the United States (US) and Malaysia. The highest number of Bangladeshis -- over 0.18 million -- was hired by Oman followed by Saudi Arabia with 0.13 million, Qatar 0.12 million, Bahrain around 69,000 and Singapore with around 53,000 Bangladeshis last year.
The markets in the UAE and Malaysia were considered frustrating as they were not recruiting any Bangladeshis. Middlemen, both in Bangladesh and in Malaysia, are exploiting the migrant jobseekers by otherwise alluring them with false job recruitment notices.
On the migration issue, Prime minister Sheikh Hasina said we must pledge and act to lift the migrants from misery and agony. Dignity, safety and rights of the migrants should also be protected, regardless of their status, she added.
Creating environment in all countries is a necessity so that people prefer to remain within their communities instead of migrating elsewhere. However, the global debate about migration is increasingly becoming an irrational debate dominated by populist approaches.
A significant amount of remittance, incidentally, comes through informal channels such as hundi, friends or relatives. It is obvious that amount of actual remittance flow to the country is much higher than the official flow.
However, it is expected that, due to the growing consciousness among the migrants and also the flexibility in money transfer system, the percentage of informal flow is gradually decreasing.
The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and RMMRU survey found that only 13 per cent of international migrants' family is living under poverty line, whereas 40 per cent of non-migrant family and 46 per cent internal migrants' family live below poverty line. A current research study by the RMMRU and the Research Programme Consortium (RPC) found that migrants' households spend much more money for primary and secondary level education than non-migrants' household.
Despite continuous awareness campaigns by the non-government organisations (NGOs), civil society and government agencies, irregular migration has been a major concern. The boat migration to South-East Asian countries particularly to Malaysia and Thailand became a dangerous phenomenon which has been termed as "slave trade" in migration era over the year of 2014 and 2015. A new irregular migration route has been introduced and it became highly active in 2015.
With the flow of Syrian refugees migrating to the European region, a number of Bangladeshis are trying to reach Europe illegally. Sudan has become a hotspot in 2015 as a transit country for the people from Asia and Africa. The Bangladeshis are going to Sudan on tourist visa and then from their human smugglers or traffickers help them to cross border and enter Libya.
Labour migration to politically unstable countries is also a major concern for Bangladesh. Around 14,000 people have migrated to Iraq in 2015 which is about 2.6 per cent of the total flow. Despite the ongoing crisis in major parts of Iraq and absence of stable governance, why the government of Bangladesh allowed people to migrate in this volatile region is a matter of concern.
The Malaysian government has taken a decision to expel the irregular migrants from their country from January 2016. Most of those who are now considered as irregular, may have entered Malaysia with legal visa. Later when the employers failed to provide them with work, they themselves found work at other companies. In this process they have become irregular.
Labour attaches are the main points of contact between the migrants at destination and their country of origin. Currently labour attaches of Bangladesh are posted in 17 countries. Insufficient number of labour attaches creates major problems in providing services to the migrants. In the growing trend of female migration from Bangladesh, it is essential to appoint more female staffs at labour wings of its embassies abroad.
In governing migration, Bangladesh has achieved tremendous achievements in the international arena. It has also been successful in making a breakthrough in re-entering some of its traditional markets. After going through a strenuous process for five years, it has been successful in increasing its annual labour flow to the overseas countries.
According to migration analysts, the governments should humanise the global migration process by ensuring rights, dignity and safety of the migrants and stopping identity-politics and hate speeches. Undertaking a people-first rights-based approach is essential for developing a broad framework for addressing root causes of migration.
New researches show positive outcomes of migration for the migrant families. However, governance of migration needs major improvement. Given the positive outcomes of migration, the government needs to develop a national strategy to integrate migration in every development planning.