Promoting Safe Migration, MigrantRights and Welfare in Bangladesh

Migrant workers from Bangladesh are often uninformed, use irregular channels to migrate and findthemselves in vulnerable positions. Due to the lack of information, high transaction costs and exploitation, which opens the way to unscrupulous recruiting agents, middlemen, smugglers and traffickers, migrants often are cheated, exploited and unable to safe money abroad. 


Every year, hundreds of thousands of Bangladeshis leave their country for foreignemployment. In 2012, a total of 431,669 Bangladeshi labor migrants left to Gulf countries, out of which 37,304 were women who left to work as domestic helpers/workers (source: BMET). Most of the migrant people are less skilled and less educated. Majority of them belong to the age group between 16 to 35 years old.


Migration has long been an important livelihood strategy for the people of Bangladesh. Every year, they send/bring home billions of dollars.As per the Central Bank of Bangladesh remittance sent home in 2011through legal channels alone was 12.16 billion dollar, contributing significantly to the socio-economic development of the country. Often migrants sent their money home through “hundi”, a risky and illegal channel. Over the past decade, remittances from migrant workers have proved to be the mainstay of the Bangladeshi economy but even this is a fact not enough has been done to protect the rights who uphold the economic growth of Bangladesh with their hard work abroad.


The unpleasant living conditions of many families in Bangladesh force many potential migrants to seek alternatives to registered and informed migration channels. Their low professional profile is also exposing them to further troubles and risks since they normally have little education and less language and professional skills.To help minimizing the gaps seen in the migration sector, AWO International is implementing a joint project with WARBE (Welfare Association for the Rights of Bangladeshi Emigrants) Development Foundation, aimingto fight irregular migration, protecting the rights of migrants, and to capacitate potential migrants from being cheated, exploited, and mistreated. 


In October2012, AWO International started a fifteen month pilot project with WARBE aimingtopromotesafe migration and capacity developmentformigrant workers in Bangladesh through knowledge and skill transfer. WARBE was established in 1997 by Bangladeshi migrants returning from Saudi Arabia.The projectis implemented in two migrant prone “upazillas” (sub-districts), directly benefitting a totalpopulation of forty thousand men and women from migrant communities, indirectly over 100 thousand persons. By keeping in mind the enormous challenges/gaps in Migration sector of Bangladesh, AWO International intends to extend the cooperation project in the next years.


To achieve the set objectives and intended results of the cooperation projectWARBE is working on two levels - at the policy and the grassroots levels. In a high level task force formed by the Government for migrant issues, WARBE has been selected as one of two NGOs representingthe interests of Civil Society. On behalf of the migrant communities, WARBE has been advocating andlobbying at governmental levelto reduce irregular migration &cheating of migrantsand to strengthen effective mechanisms.


In two cities, WARBE has established Migration Information Service Centers (MISC) by help of AWO International. Here potential and returning migrants such as family members of migrants abroad receive information and counseling in context of safe migration and other migration related issues. WARBEalso organizes mass meetings in different placesto aware people about safe migration and started to form community based organizations where potential and returning migrants as well as family members of migrants abroad find dialogue platforms to exchange their experiences, views, start joint businesses and organize help jointly if needed. 


WARBE is offering “pre-departure trainings” to potential migrants that are considered as a highly useful course for migrants; the training model has also been recognized by the Government. In addition, WARBE isoffering 3 months longtrainingsfor potential migrants and close female family members of migrants abroad. Potential male migrants are capacitated in electrical house wiring that helps to find better jobs where they are more respected. Experiences of the first two batches show that many participants found already jobs with their new skills in Bangladesh and do not need to go abroad. Female family members of migrantsare capacitated in handicraft trainings that help to start somesmall scale businesses for livelihood improvements at household level. These trainings are also relevant in context of women empowerment and networking of “the left at home”. 


Promotion of safe migration by creating public awareness, lobbying & advocacy for migrants rights, income generating activities and capacitation of migrants and their families (for example in context of development friendly utilization or remittance) will be also the major components of the planned next phase where also a third “MISC” in the harbor city of Chittaghongis planned. 

Labor migration became a survival strategy for many families. Often migrants get cheated and mistreated

3 Million Bangladeshis are working in Saudi Arabia. In 2012 nearly 608.000 labor migrants left the country

Formal opening of the Migration Information Centre in Comilla by AWO International Regional Representative

Interaction session between returned migrants and WARBE

Handicraft training for female family members of migrants and workless returning migrants

Electrification training for potential migrants. Skilled and informed labor migrants phase less discrimination.

WARBE team starting an awareness rally for migrants rights and safe migration in Tangail