As the pandemic brings new sets of problems for the migrant workers of Bangladesh and demands a shift from traditional workplace, non profit organisations are opting to pivot their activities and institutional norms –argued the panellist in a panel discussion on 27th August, 2020.
The introductory panel initiated a daylong ‘FLM IBP e-coordination meeting’ among Issue Based Project partners of PROKAS. The meeting was organised by IID and the panel discussion was broadcast live from IID’s Facebook page.
The pandemic affected labour migrants in multiple ways who were already vulnerable. While migrants staying in the host countries suffered from lack of food and support, those who came back after losing their jobs risked stigmatisation in their own county. Returnee migrants, being confused with quarantine rules, needed support in the airport. Both aspirant migrants and migrants who were already here for vacation, experienced a tremendous financial and psychological crisis for not being able to depart the country and join the workforce as flights stopped due to movement restrictions. Studies have found that female migrant domestic workers were having heavier workload during the lockdown. At the same time, security of the returnee female migrants was threatened while locals forced them to stay isolated.
The panellists also discussed the difficulties they faced while implementing activities during the lockdown and after the lockdown was relaxed and strategies applied to address them. How to continue institutional activities while protecting personal health – is a challenge that no one has faced before. Although, ‘work from home’ added setbacks to activities that needed face-to-face communication between team members, new opportunities opened up while adapting to the new normal.
Sumaiya Islam, Executive Director, BNSK stressed that humanitarian efforts targeting only women migrants are very rare. BNSK’s activities included supplying food and other essentials to female migrants abroad and to returnee female migrants in Bangladesh as well as staying in touch with local authorities to ensure safe quarantine for female returnees.
Marina Sultanta, Director Programme, RMRRU mentioned that in the lockdown the extent of research was made shorter to sustain desired quality. She added that there was a huge shift in research focus to gender based violence as lockdown made women become more isolated escalating their vulnerability to abuse. RMMRU’s situation analysis, at the initial stage of COVID-19 outbreak, provided important information to the government and other organizations.
Know more about PROKAS
Md. Arifur Rahman, Chief Executive, YPSA argued that it is necessary to disseminate information on preventive measures for COVID-19 in such a way that the migrants can understand. In this context, YPSA translated instructions of the government and WHO, along with preparing pictorial material, in the local languages and utilised community radio and social media to spread these materials.
Lily Jahan, Chairman of BOMSA, explained, lockdown and health safety measures restrict movement within different parts of the country, BOMSA’s community based organisations (CBOs) reached returnee workers, albeit in a smaller extent than needed, with humanitarian support. BOMSA also provided assistance to the returnee migrants in the airports and in bringing dead bodies of deceased migrants from abroad.
Syed Saiful Haque, Chairman & Founder Member, WARBE DF, pointed out that as it was possible to bring people together from all over of the world more frequently through online meetings, CSOs of Bangladesh got many opportunities to raise issues regarding migrants in the pandemic. This, in turn, created pressure on the host countries resulting in lesser deportation than expected. Progress in implementation of GCM was also made in regional consultations amid such a crisis.
Shirin Lira, IBP manager, Fair Labour Migration moderated the panel discussion. Along with the panellists, the session was attended by representatives from PROKAS team and FLM partners.