Friday, April 08, 2011

After repatriation from troubled Libya, rehabilitation remains a major challenge

SALEEM SAMAD

Bangladesh with assistance from international organizations has been able to repatriate overwhelming majority of migrant workers from strife torn Libya. The biggest challenge up front is rehabilitation, reintegration into the society.

The International Organization of Migration (IOM), with the support of United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and Bangladesh government, more than 30 thousand Bangladeshis living and working in Libya have returned to Bangladesh.

In one month starting from 01 March, IOM assisted the return of 28,329 Bangladeshis in 92 IOM chartered flights and 11 Bangladesh Biman flights while approximately 3,433 came back self-arranged or arranged by their employers, an IOM statement issued on Thursday from Bangladesh office stated.

The UN Secretary General Mr. Ban Ki-moon had said recently that with such swift, efficient and large evacuation of third country nationals, a major humanitarian disaster have been averted so far.

“About 200 Bangladeshis remain at the different borders with Libya today, with an average of 120 new arrivals every day. An estimated 30,000 Bangladeshis still remain inside Libya. If land travel situation improve, it is likely that another surge of thousands of Bangladeshis may flee to the borders, needing evacuation. The government and IOM would urgently need to be prepared for that’, said Rabab Fatima, Regional Representative of IOM in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, the government fears that foreign remittance inflow is likely to fall, which is more than seven million immigrants and migrants contribute nearly 10 billion in the national economy. Foreign remittance by migrant workers and immigrants is the highest single foreign currency income.

However, the political crisis in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Tunisia and Egypt in the Gulf region will further cause insecurity, fear and instability which will result in further abandoning their place of duty due to negative economic scenario, said Dr. Tasneem Siddique, president of Refugee and Migratory Movement Research Unit.

Bangladesh authority has launched diplomatic maneuvers to persuade Japan, Saudi Arabia and other countries to offer jobs to skilled workers returning from Libya and other troubled Gulf states. Japan is engaged in massive rehabilitation program after Tsunami coupled with severe earthquake last month completely damaged most of the northern region and needs thousands of construction workers.

“The crisis is far from over. More than ever, we appeal to donors to maintain stamina. We are in this for the long haul and we have to collectively ensure that the plight of those fleeing the violence in Libya is not prolonged due to a lack of funds,” states IOM Director General William Lacy Swing. [ENDS]

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and politics. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com