Despite Bangladesh’s global status as a major labor-sending country, the overseas labor recruitment and reintegration systems do not adequately safeguard in-service and returning migrant workers. While migration is spurred by conditions of poverty and a lack of job opportunities at home, migrants often lack knowledge and access to safe migration channels. Many are unaware of the real costs of migration or unable to pay what a dalal or middleman demands. Taking on debt to finance migration puts migrant workers at risk of forced labor or exploitation.
Moreover, workers who return are often coping with trauma from mental or physical abuse. Many struggle to reintegrate within their families and/or communities. Despite the need for wrap-around care, reintegration services in Bangladesh are fragmented, focusing primarily on economic reintegration. Perceptions of “failed migration” hinder social reintegration, especially for female returnees.
To reduce the prevalence of forced labor among Bangladeshi migrants (to the Gulf region as the majority of the Bangladeshi migrant workers are received by Gulf Cooperation Council countries), GFEMS, with support from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad), funded the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD), and partners Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program (OKUP) and Caritas Bangladesh (CB) to implement the “Recovery and Reintegration Support for Bangladeshi Returnee Migrant Workers” project. Together, they provided direct repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration services to Bangladeshi migrants and survivors including shelter, airport pickup, psychosocial counseling, medical support, legal, as well as economic and livelihood services. They also provided assistance to key government and civil society actors providing repatriation and recovery support.
This brief outlines key learnings from this project and includes recommendations for key stakeholders to strengthen international labor migration systems in Bangladesh and better protect workers through each stage of the migration journey.
For more, download the full brief.