Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday told Parliament that her government has taken multi-layered initiatives to bring back Bangladeshi workers from the Middle East and various initiatives have been taken for the returning migrants.
She also assured action against an Independent lawmaker arrested in Kuwait on charges of human trafficking and visa trading.
Later, addressing an ILO conference, she stressed that jobs of migrant workers at overseas markets must be retained during Covid-19 crisis.
Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday morning, she noted that Bangladesh is facing pressure to bring back expatriate workers.
Replying to a question from ruling Awami League lawmaker Benjir Ahmed, Sheikh Hasina said: "Due to the outbreak of coronavirus, diplomatic pressure continues from the Middle East countries for bringing back expatriate workers. But our government has taken multi-faceted diplomatic initiatives to reduce this pressure."
As part of the diplomatic efforts, she said she sent letters to some heads of state or government.
"Only 22,000 expatriate workers have returned home so far. The number of returnees is still low due to timely diplomatic initiatives taken by the present Awami League government," she said.
"We are talking with every country. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is working on this. We have special incentives for the migrants, they can start work with loan from government organisations.
"They will get loan at only 4 per cent interest. I have reserved 2,000 crore takas for the Prabasi Kalyan Bank, the Palli Sanchay Bank, the Karma Sansthan Bank and the Probashi Kalyan Foundation.
"Bangladesh government is continued the diplomatic efforts to ensure the workers, who lost their jobs abroad due to the Covid-19 pandemic, can get back their jobs."
Sheikh Hasina also urged manpower recruiting agencies to send workers abroad only after proper authentication of jobs and employers.
She also asked the people to follow the legal process, which is very easy, apply at the digital centres at the grass roots level to go abroad and to remain aware of the traffickers.
"However, although it is very easy to apply... I am surprised, they pay huge amounts to the recruiting agents and die on the way while going abroad illegally.
"They spend millions of takas to go abroad illegally and fall into the clutches of the traffickers and become destitute. People should be aware of this," she said.
On the recent killing of Bangladeshi migrants in Libya, Hasina said the government is taking proper action against the recruiting agencies that had sent the migrants illegally.
Police and RAB arrested all of them and the legal process is on, she said.
Sheikh Hasina also announced that if Mohammad Shahid Islam Papul - the lawmaker arrested in Kuwait - turns out to be a Kuwaiti citizen, "his parliamentary seat will be declared vacant as per law".
Participating in an unscheduled debate initiated by BNP lawmaker Harunur Rashid, she said: "We're in talks with Kuwait government. We've launched an investigation against him in our country, too."
Rashid cited media reports of Foreign Minister Dr A.K. Abdul Momen had said that Kuwaiti authorities detained a Bangladeshi MP to face money laundering and human trafficking charges as a "local resident" of the Gulf country.
As Rashid also raised the issue of Regent Hospital providing fake coronavirus test results, Sheikh Hasina said the government will find out all irregularities and that seven people had already been arrested in the connection.
She also said she would have been happy had the BNP MP divulged the matter earlier.
Later, at the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Global Summit on 'Covid-19 and the world of work', Sheikh Hasina said: "World Bank had predicted, Bangladesh will lose 20 per cent of our earnings from remittances due to the Covid-19 pandemic."
"Demographically, the virus does not discriminate between climate change and globalisation, but its adverse effects can impact workers, especially vulnerable migrant and women workers," she added.
"In this regard my suggestions are - No 1, the jobs of migrant workers at overseas markets must be retained during this crisis. No 2, in case of lay offs, compensation and other benefits must be given to them including their own safety. No 3, after the pandemic, these workers have to be recruited to reactivate the economy.
About the allegations corruption and irregularities in distribution of government relief materials during this Covid-19 period, the Prime Minister said the government is giving assistance to 5 million families through a list prepared after three steps of scrutiny. Also, the assistance is being sent through their mobile phones or bank accounts.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh has sent medical equipment and pharmaceutical items to different countries as part of the government's "food and medical diplomacy", she added.
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