It is good news that the expatriates' welfare ministry is considering revising the migration cost for the Bangladeshi job seekers in the international markets. However, it is imperative that it reduces—not increases— the costs associated with migration. The cost of getting a job in a foreign company and travel expenses at the moment is already too high, given the economic status of the jobless youths of the country. Pertinent issues like rising plane fare and costs involved in institutional quarantine upon arrival are adding to the financial burden of the aspiring migrants.
Though the relevant ministry often instructs the job-seekers not to pay anything beyond the official amount, in reality migrants have to pay three to four times more than the amount fixed by the government. In a recent report published in this daily, it is said that the migration costs for going to 16 countries, such as, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Libya, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Qatar, Jordan, Egypt, Russia, Maldives, Brunei, and Lebanon, are fixed at maximum of Tk 1.66 lakh and minimum of Tk 97,780, but it is an open secret that job-seekers have to pay hefty amounts to various actors in the process. According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data, the estimated average recruitment cost for Bangladeshi migrants was Tk 4.17 lakh between 2015 and 2018. This included agencies' service charge, airfare, passport, medical, and visa fees. But airfare has increased over Tk 1 lakh in recent days.
Returnees from various countries talked about different groups that operate on the route starting from Dhaka and extort money from workers. In fact, there is no way to learn how much a worker ultimately spends before landing at the doorstep of his employer.
The expatriates' welfare ministry said it would revise and re-fix the migration costs based on suggestions from the stakeholders so that these may become more "realistic". But what exactly does the ministry denote by that? If it means the government's revised fees will go beyond the existing costs, it would only make an already untenable situation worse for the workers. The concept of "employer pay model," as practiced in many countries, ought to be adopted by Bangladesh while sending workers abroad. Some experts also suggest the introduction of more affordable tickets for workers in the face of rising ticket fare.
It is crucial that the cost of migration for our workforce is significantly brought down. There is no denying that the lack of clarity in the entire process of migration is adding to the woes of our expatriate workforce who still remain the highest foreign currency earners for the country.