Immigration Diplomatic Missions Must Solve Crisis
Dr. Forkan Uddin Ahmed :
One of the most burning issues in the world today is the immigration crisis. The immigration process is accelerating. According to the World Migration Report 2015, about 3 million people of the world tend to be migrated in a week and leaving their homelands. Experts say, one in every 35 people in the world is an immigrant. A large part of the global economy depends on the labor of migrants. In this reality, it is the responsibility of all concerned to protect the rights and dignity of the migrants. About ten millions working people of Bangladesh are employed in 161 countries of the world. If the families below the poverty line in Bangladesh can be converted into remittance recipient families, then those families will not be poor. It will be easier to take the country to the developed country. This is possible only when there is proper management of the immigration process. The remittance of migrants is playing a significant role in Bangladesh's economy. The role of migrants in Bangladesh's poverty alleviation needs to be dynamic and strengthened.
The majority of the ten millions people belong to working class. Others are engaged in business or other professions in abroad. With more than 99 percent of Bangladeshis living abroad, have their links with their roots in Bangladesh. Expatriates send a large portion of their income as remittances to their relatives. Today the economy of the country has reached a respectable level due to the remittance sent by the expatriates. But the question is whether there is any obligation towards the Bangladeshi nationals of the diplomatic missions abroad. Their dealings with the expatriates are similar to those of the feudal lords. In spite of potentialities, foreign investment in Bangladesh is not being promoted due to lack of proper representation of Bangladesh to foreign investors. It is open secret that the expatriates are not properly assisted in the mission of Bangladesh, When, people from other countries see that Bangladeshis do not get the honor of their own embassy, then the people of that country also get the opportunity to show disrespect the Bangladeshi workers.
The UNHCR, the UN Human Rights Organization, raised its observations in its annual report. In that observation, they have said that the cooperation of the embassies in confronting the rights and deprivation of Bangladeshi workers is limited in various countries including the Middle East. At the same time, it is said that those who serve the embassy need to be more skilled and trained. Let's talk about prisoners in different countries. Both present and past Foreign Ministers and Speaker Dr. Shirin Sharmin said in response to a question that necessary preparations are made to communicate with the concerned countries to promote training activities viable and modern. They also told that there are 9640 prisoners are captive in various prisons of 38 countries of the world. Most of the prison inmates went to different countries in search of work. The captive families feel that their relatives can easily return to the country if they receive the necessary assistance from the embassies. However, it is also true that some of our workers have to face their laws in different countries for their illegal overstay, disobeying the rules of the country, changing the workplace informally. Moreover, our foreign embassy people are not friendly to the expatriates. The expatriates very often lodge complain and inadequacies, restrictions on the services of the embassies are often published in the media. Workers living in many countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, UAE, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, have complained that the services of the embassies are inadequate. Our embassies have not yet been as humane as any other country in providing legal services and assistance to the victims. At the same time, allegations of lack of accountability for the protection of women workers in different countries including the Middle East are being raised repeatedly.
New horizons of close bilateral and multilateral relations with Bangladesh's development partner countries must first be uncovered. Both former and current Ministers of the Ministry of Migrant Welfare and Overseas Employment of Bangladesh have said that the concerned countries are being contacted to modernize and strengthen the training program. However, we will not be relieved until this statement is added to the effective steps of the diplomatic policy. Here are some suggestions to strengthen immigration diplomacy. As the immigration labour and immigration workers issue is related to foreign relations, a department called the Immigration Wing of the Foreign Ministry needs to be launched. The problem is that this matter is under the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and the Ministry does not have the skills of foreign relations. The question now is whether the immigration issue can be handled efficiently and effectively through close communication and coordination of these two Ministries. If this mechanism is to be strengthened, the Immigration Branch of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs must be sufficiently independent and strong. In this case, the inter-relations between these two Ministries have to be made. Another revolutionary alternative to the restructuring of the Ministry as a new ministry may be formed. Second, the institutional framework must be developed for the maturity of immigration policies. Demand for establishing different training institutes need to be established as per the demand of the skilled labour force in different countries. We have to exploit the chances of entering into a semi-skilled or skilled labour force by breaking the odds of illiterate workers. Third, in addition to the institutional setting, extensive research and education activities on immigration labour should be undertaken, and the era of lifelong, 'academic discourses should begin. Employers of a class are depriving these workers of the fair value of labour and treating them like slaves. Instead of returning home with family loan burdens due to spending millions, they are forced to choose the path of paying the family and repaying their debt by selling money as slaves. Out of these, migrant workers are returning to the country empty handed everyday. At present, about 10,000 Bangladeshi workers are living indefinitely in prisons and detention camps in different countries. The numerous incidents of Bangladeshi women domestic workers being harassed, physically tortured and maltreated in virtuous land like Saudi Arabia, which have alarmingly, foot us in serious tension. Now it is the responsibility of the state to protect them.
Embassies need to be more labor-intensive. At the same time, Embassies need to be more immigrant-friendly. If necessary, efforts should be made to provide 24-hour service to the embassies. The role of diplomatic missions in different countries is very important in expanding the global labor market. At the same time, the responsibilities of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Foreign Affairs are also immense. Exploring new labor markets, negotiating with employers, protecting workers' interests, ensuring proper payroll, compensating affected workers, blacklisting of illegal employers, searching for employers as per the requirements of recruiting agencies, enhancing bilateral trade relations and ensuring the safety of migrants living abroad are the challenges to government. Embassies also have a lot of responsibility for expanding the manpower market, entering new labor markets and maintaining the traditional labour market. Our internal labour market is certainly limited. On an average 2 million people, enter the labour market every year. But where is the huge labour force employment? Experts say that although agriculture may involve a large part of the labour force, there is no such provision for the rest. In that case, one of our major relocations is foreign employment. It turns out that the country is earning $ 13 to 14 billion dollars in foreign currency every year without any major economic investment in the sectors like garment, leather, pharmaceuticals, etc., which contributes to 7.24 percent of our GDP.
At the same time, we hope that our big labour market will open the way for very quick staffing in the UAE. While the present government has taken various initiatives for the welfare of the expatriates, its success will depend on the missions. Embassies should be the main hub of labour market, the main office of our export market. In order to expand the labor market of Bangladeshi workers abroad and increase exports, Bangladeshi missions will have to be reorganized to promote foreign investment in the country at a critical level. As a dedicated institution of the country and the people, initiative must be taken to build them. Only then, we will able to export more workforces safely, which will further expedite our sustainable development.
(Dr. Forkan Uddin Ahmed, writer, columnist and researcher)