We are facing the most challenging times of our history. Until this time, Bangladesh hasn't seen any such time in its history since the liberation war. Bangladesh has faced several natural disasters after that, including floods, cyclones, and many more. Nevertheless, those disasters didn't affect the 64 districts at the same time. Some of the neighborhoods were always out of danger during different disasters in the country. However, the effects of the Covid-19 disaster have engulfed the whole country.
So, does the world. All most all the countries in the world have reported the existence of Coronavirus patients. This is the most devastating disaster the world is facing in the twenty-first century. And after the Second World War, Covid-19 crisis has caused the trouble of jobs across the globe. Economists have pointed out that since the Second World War, the Covid-19 crisis has caused the world economy to shrink once again, and they don't know where it will end.
The Middle East is no exception to the situation. And this is the region where most of our Bangladeshi migrant workers are living and earning their livelihood. Most of the workers from Bangladesh work in the outdoors, construction sites, restaurants, and any jobs where outdoor presence is required. Since everything is under lockdown and no economic activities are going on and going out of the house is prohibited, so the entrepreneurs and businesses are cutting jobs.
And now this has caused a new crisis about the Coronavirus crisis in Bangladesh. According to our Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen, more than 29 thousand expatriate Bangladeshis will return from different Gulf countries and others. Due to the Corona outbreak, the expatriates have lost their jobs, and there no grantee when they will have their jobs back and a source of income.
Bangladesh's government has already taken back expatriates from the Maldives, and there are many waiting to return to Bangladesh. Besides, the government has sent one ton of food for the stranded expatriates in that country. People who are returning from those countries are asked to remain in the home quarantine with minimal surveillance.
Among the returnee expatriates, there were more than four thousand got amnesty from jail of different countries of the Middle East. Some are still stranded in camps of different countries' camps. And their repatriation is depending on those governments. Some of those have committed criminal offenses in those countries.
There is no clear explanation of what the Bangladesh government has done with them. The expatriate who has died due to coronavirus in a foreign countrytheir body will not accept by the Bangladesh government. However, they will be buried according to their faith. In an unlikely event, if the body arrives from abroad, their families will not be allowed to see them.
Nevertheless, there is a direction from the government that if it is possible to stay there, then they should stay. But if they must come back, then they will have to carry a Coronavirus test certificate. Also, once they are back, they will have to stay in mandatory 14-day home quarantine. Otherwise, they will be sent to institutional quarantines.
Now there are reports that the Bangladeshi people who are stranded in those countries are not being provided with enough food supplies. In this case, the Bangladesh government could have directed to its consulates, embassies, and high commissions to help those stranded expatriates by providing food supplies to those who are stranded and need in foods.
This could have stopped the returning of those expatriates for some time. Because of the migrant workers who are living abroad and earning starts coming back then it will be a disaster. Bangladesh's government doesn't have any plans for those who are returning and how they will earn their livelihood once they are back in Bangladesh.
Because once they are back, the Bangladesh government will have to take care of them. In addition, it will be hard for the government to keep them in the isolation or quarantine given the previous experiences. On the other hand, they will have to go outside eventually to earn and to feed their family.
They are one of the significantcontributors to the national economy and earning foreign countries for Bangladesh. If the Bangladesh government declares a remuneration package for garment workers, why not for the immigrant workers. Those expatriates have contributed a lot to the country, and now it is time that we repay their contribution.
So far, the government has declared many remuneration packages for the people who are living in the country. Still, there is no specific declarationthat came out from the government who are returning after losing their jobs. If those who are receiving the remuneration packages from the government on the ground that they are contributing to the economy, then I have to say migrant workers should be on the top of that list.
It is not easy to do anything fruitful now. Because no plan will work in this situation given everything is a lockdown. We have seen that most of the first world countries have failed to handle the situation, and they are still trying to make things better. Compared to those countries, we think the Bangladesh government has done far better than many other countries. We do accept that there are certain sectors the government has failed.
Nevertheless, we will have enough time to criticize or eulogize the government. The government is doing its best to make life secure in this Coronavirus outbreak. After everything remains uncertain,we need to use our limited resources best. Besides, new challenges are coming up after one anotherevery day.
So, it is time for the government to think about the stranded the expatriates in a foreign country. If we cannot help them to stay abroad, then we have double blended problems. The first government will have to make sure they don't contaminate, and then in the second phase, they will need food and money for their living. This is why I think the government should make sure they get enough food to live there and not come back.
(We acknowledge different sources with gratitude)
The writer is an Assistant Professor, Department of Public Administration, Comilla University, Bangladesh. Email:[email protected]
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