It is undoubtedly a matter of great delight that by 2032 Bangladesh may be enlisted as a strong economic country. That countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Vietnam and South Africa may lag behind Bangladesh’s advances within the year 2033 is a matter of wonder and excitement. But when UK-based research institution ‘Centre for Economics and Business Research’ (CEBR) spreads this news, the idea doesn’t seem so unbelievable.

The projection of glorifies Bangladesh advancing towards prosperity, moving past at least seventeen countries cannot be denied. In the past 15 years our country’s development has passed that of 12 countries that were more developed and is the reason for the CEBR prediction. But the CEO of CEBR also stated that this is currently nothing more than numerical data. What matters most is whether this prediction materialises.

Remittance is one of the most important sectors for Bangladesh’s economic growth. The foreign currency acquired by the nation through remittance is thrice as much as that earned by the garments industry if the amount of money for purchasing fundamental ingredients is deducted from the gross production. Since the 70s, about 10 million labourers from Bangladesh have contributed to the labour markets of around 126 countries. Most of them went to countries located in the Middle East or South-East Asia for employment. The labourers who went through legal immigration process are considered lucky. But most of the people migrated to different countries without knowing the process, sponsored by the government. The money sent by the labourers is not only important for the growth of our economy but is also necessary for thousands of families that are dependent on remittance. But it is a matter of great regret that their migration process is not yet safe. They are still suffering and being oppressed.

A few days earlier, two labourers who returned from Brunei described their inexplicable suffering. Md Faizullah, 27, and Md Rahmatullah, 29, from Rangunia Upazilla of Chattogram District gave Tk 350,000 to a broker who promised them safe immigration to Brunei so they could provide their families. These two young men went outside the country with six to seven people under the supervision of an agent of Jilani Tour and Travels in Dhaka’s Nayapaltan named Monir Hussain. They were starved during their time in the foreign country. After a period of four months they had the opportunity to seek the help of the Embassy of Bangladesh. The authority announced that their visas were completely false and illegal. These two victims somehow managed to return home by communicating with their family. This incident is not just one isolated incident. It exposes the vulnerabilities in our immigration system.

Undoubtedly a lack of education and training can be blamed for part of this problem. An immigrant is not particularly aware of his rights and privileges. Some of them don’t even know about their jobs or working procedure, let alone understand the papers that contain these agreements. It is indeed dangerous to work with such uncertainty. But necessity knows no law and people will take on risk if they have to. But often these people are cheated by brokers and left with nothing. According to the calculation of Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), 19 percent of people out of the 51 percent who pay for job opportunities didn’t get the chance to go outside the country. The remaining 32 percent are cheated after subjecting themselves to immigration procedures. People spend anywhere from Tk 300,000 to Tk 1 million to travel abroad under a labourer visa. Nearly three-quarters of this money gets wasted by brokers. These brokers are the main culprits behind our illegal immigration problem. The Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment has taken some initiatives to formulate regulations and ensuring accountability for these brokers. Some non-government developing institutions are also working on the issue. But the situation hasn’t changed at all. Illegal immigration has not been stifled and many people are still being cheated.

Recently a non-government volunteer organisation named Young Power in Social Action( IPSA) conducted a survey in association with UK Aid and the British Council. The survey shows that 70 percent of people seek the help of brokers for the immigration process while only 11 percent can go through this procedure on their own.  Most of the participants confessed that they had spent 50 percent more money than necessary to get a passport. Brokers are creating this kind of problem. Nearly 70 percent of participants had no idea about enlisting the aid of recruiting agency. But it is necessary for any immigrant to know the recruiting process. The survey suggests that nearly 70 percent people had no experience or understanding of this essential matter.

The recruiting agencies are more interested to recruit novice labourers as it helps them earn more. Therefore it is essential to build up government training centres. Experts agree that such a step might inspire the non-government agencies to build up similar training centres if they see they are successful. After completing the field research, IPSA has suggested the implementation of the Foreign Employment and Immigration Act 2013 to ensuring the help and associations of foreign embassies, creating government offices for those travelling abroad to providing labourers with training as well as knowledge about the culture and language of the destination country and finally inspection of the activity of recruiting agency and brokers. It has been already stated that our economic growth depends on the remittance sent by labourers. Remittance is the symbol of their labour, sweat and tears. The government and the nation cannot deny their responsibility in ensuring a safe and comfortable process for our labourers.

Md Sharif Hasanteaches international relations at Rajshahi University.

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