From Libya to Bangladesh, One Crisis to Another?

BY SALEEM SAMAD
May 18, 2011

They fled the bloodshed and political turmoil. But for Bangladeshis who have come home, there is a huge challenge ahead of them.

840 An anti-Gaddafi fighter in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi (Photo credit: Suhaib Salem)

Bangladesh – with assistance from international organisations – has been able to repatriate the overwhelming majority of its migrant workers from strife-torn Libya. The biggest challenge upfront now is rehabilitation and reintegration into the society.

The International Organization of Migration (IOM), with the support of United Nations refugee agency UNHCR and the Bangladeshi government, helped more than 30,000 Bangladeshis living and working in Libya return to Bangladesh.

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had said recently that with such swift, efficient and large evacuation of third-country nationals, a major humanitarian disaster has 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 improves, 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. Foreign remittance by migrant workers and immigrants is the highest single foreign currency income for Bangladesh.

Bangladeshi authorities have launched diplomatic manoeuvers 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 a massive rehabilitation programme after tsunami and earthquake last month completely damaged most of its 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,” stated IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

 

This post was originally published on Bangladesh Watchdog in April 2011.