Migrants Supporting Migrants: Community Migration Forums for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration – Bangladesh
Sheikh Faruk Ahmed, like many other young men in his community, finished primary school but could not afford to go to high school. From the age of 14 he worked to support his family but, as he had no academic qualifications, he was unable to find a permanent, well-paying job and eventually struggled to earn. enough to provide for those who relied on him. In Bangladesh, he was just one of 2.2 million young job seekers who join the workforce every year, most of whom cannot be absorbed into the domestic labor market.
With very few viable options at his disposal, Faruk, like many of his peers, dreamed of going abroad. He used the services of a broker, who charged him 500,000 Bangladeshi taka (BDT), or about 5,925 USD, and in 2012 he took him to Libya. For a few years he worked as a painter in a factory, but when the conflict broke out in Libya his income declined and he decided to move to Italy to find a better paying job in a safer environment. Once again, he contacted a smuggler who arranged for him to travel to Italy in 2015.
The trip to Europe, across the Mediterranean Sea was both dangerous and frightening. Although he failed in his goal of reaching and finding work in Europe, he considers himself lucky once he is rescued at sea by the Italian Coast Guard. Tragically, hundreds of migrants die every year trying to cross from North Africa to Europe.
After being rescued, Faruk was transferred to an asylum center where life was difficult, and he ultimately failed in his desperate attempts to obtain documents that would allow him to live and work in Italy. In 2019 he decided to return to Bangladesh and on April 25 he landed in Dhaka after a four-year absence.
Sadly, Faruk’s story is not uncommon and highlights the plight of vulnerable migrants who are at the mercy of smugglers, human traffickers and exploitative employers. Although Faruk was able to return home, many others do not always have this option at their fingertips. Migrants need information about safe and regular migration in order to be able to make informed decisions.
After Faruk returned, a member of the Migration Forum from Paikgacha sub-district in Khulna, Bangladesh, found he was in dire need of support. The forum member then put him in touch with the Prottasha project office in the district for reintegration support. Prottasha, officially known as Bangladesh: Sustainable Reintegration and Improved Governance of Migration, is a government-led project funded by the European Union.
Since 2017, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bangladesh, in partnership with the NGO BRAC, has supported this project. The main objectives are to strengthen the capacities of migration governance, raise awareness of safe migration and support the sustainable reintegration of returning migrant workers. The results of the project particularly contribute to the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10.
Thanks to Prottasha, Faruk received counseling and psychosocial support and over time recovered from his trauma. The project also provided livelihood diversification training and helped him start his own shrimp farming business.
Through counseling, Faruk realized that his life would have been very different if he had been better informed before leaving Bangladesh. He was determined to help others who might face similar challenges, so he joined the committee of the local Migration Forum which includes teachers, religious leaders, businessmen and returning migrants. the local community and helps educate the community, especially aspiring migrants, about the benefits of safe migration, the importance of reintegration and the need to manage remittances.
As a member of the Forum, Faruk is responsible for raising awareness among potential migrants about the risks of irregular migration, helping them to improve their knowledge of their rights as migrants and providing them with information so that they can make informed decisions. He regularly shares his experience, usually pointing out that he is very lucky to be alive. It also helps families manage the remittances they receive.
Faruk feels happy to help potential migrants make informed decisions. “I consider myself lucky to be part of this noble activity. I don’t want any of my brothers or sisters in my community to experience what I was the victim of. It’s my only wish until I die, ”he says.
Through his volunteer work, Faruk has helped other migrants, including organizing community arbitration to return 250,000 BDT (USD 2,962) to a migrant victim of forgery; or prevent a migrant woman from paying 30,000 BDT (355 USD) to a deceptive broker; or encourage a returnee from Italy to invest in assets that would generate a better return than building a house.
Faruk’s involvement in the community has not gone unnoticed. “It is a great pleasure to observe a returnee, who has been through a lot, now helping others not to face the same situation,” said Bebasish Torofder, a field organizer for the Prottasha project. “Faruk helps us not only to raise awareness in the community, but also to make our work much easier.”
It is through awareness-raising initiatives and the work of active migration forums, such as the one in Faruk, that communities have a better understanding of migration, including information on costs, routes, management of shipments. funds, reintegration assistance and the various skills needed for overseas labor markets.
Thanks to Prottasha, migration forums have been established in 60 sub-districts of Bangladesh, and through awareness-raising initiatives, community members can contact migration-focused organizations and government authorities for information and advice. advice. This has resulted in better governance of migration at the district level and has helped reduce the vulnerability of potential migrants to exploitation and human trafficking.
This story was written by Md Sariful Islam, IOM Bangladesh National Communications Officer, Tel: +8801915631608, Email: [email protected]