Nazmul Huq Bokul, a migrant worker from Narayanganj’s Araihazar upazila, had to sell his land to pay the fees for a job in Saudi Arabia.
He said if the government pays the recruitment and welfare fees and provide free of cost services to the workers, migrant workers like him would not be in debt.
Bokul was speaking at a conference titled, “Migrants’ Budget”. Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP), a migrants’ organisation, arranged it at the Institute of Diploma Engineers, Bangladesh (IDEB) in the capital yesterday.
Around 500 migrant workers and their family members along with rights activists and journalists participated in it.
“The government should also provide us with insurance and health services,” Bokul said.
Sufia Begum, a migrant worker, said, “The government should create employment opportunities for us, once we return home.”
Abu Baker, another migrant worker, said the returnees should be given monthly allowances.
Many of the workers demanded that the government increase budgetary allocation for the migration sector for the workers’ welfare.
The expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry allocated only 1.64 percent of the total budget (Tk 4,500,000 of fiscal year 2016-2017) for their development programmes, said Shakirul Islam, chairman of OKUP.
The budget is not sufficient, he added.
If the government does not provide adequate protections for the migrant workers and ensure their welfare, it would also create a burden on the country, he said. Many of the workers would not seek overseas employment, and thus the remittance flow would be affected, he stressed.
He said a migrant worker has to pay Tk 3,500 as welfare fee and Tk 450 as manpower clearance fee.
He further said there are only 17 government officials to tend to five million workers in eight gulf countries.
At the event, the rights activists stressed the need for increasing budgetary allocation in the sector, especially for the migrant workers and their families as the workers send approximately US $13 billion per year as remittance.
Audrey Maillot, team leader of governance, delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, said, “In a perfect world, migration should be a win-win pattern where both communities and countries — the originating and receiving — equally benefit. Unfortunately it is far from being as simple as that.”
Gazi Mohammad, director general of Wage Earners’ Welfare Board, said it is not sufficient to fulfill the requirement of the migrant workers with limited resources.
He, however, said if the budget is increased they would be able to address their issues in an appropriate manner.
Lawmaker Hosne Ara Lutfa Dalia, co-chair of the parliamentary caucus on migration and development, ensured that she would work for the betterment of the migrant workers.