Dhaka (AsiaNews) - Around 5.5 million migrants from Bangladesh are currently abroad in search of fortune. Of these, 33% are qualified, 15% semi-qualified and 48% belong to low unskilled workers. In conjunction with the United Nations International Migrants Day, scheduled for today, president Zillur Rahman and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have stressed the "vital role" expatriates play in the national economy. But in many cases, the price is violence and abuse, or their very lives.
The Middle East and South-east Asian nations are the main destinations for Bangladeshi migrants, who thanks to their work account for 12% of gross domestic product (GDP). From 1976 to 2008 over 6 million people emigrated to 21 different countries - including Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Britain, Italy, Egypt - producing total remittances to the state coffers of over 56 billion dollars, a constantly growing trend.
Zillur Rahman, President of Bangladesh, says that "Migrant workers play a vital role in our economy" for both the capital returned to the country and for the professional knowledge acquired abroad. The prime minister Sheikh Hasina adds that they "help build the nation and we are all grateful."
But the contribution of migrant workers often hides abuse and deaths at work and the government over the years has not been able to promote policies to protect them. Many expats work in the Middle East without receiving wages. About 8 thousand deaths have occurred in recent years, another constantly growing trend: 788 in 2004, 1248 in 2005; 1402 in 2006, 1673 in 2007; 2237 in 2008.
Migrants also have to invest substantial sums of money to move abroad. According to a World Bank report 28% of the expatriates take the money needed to start from savings fund, 21% receive money from relatives and friends, 12% sell all their worldly goods.
With the risk, once they have left, of not obtaining working visas. Several sources indicate that there are 5 million illegal Bangladeshi workers in India. From 2000 to 2006 there were 86,681 expulsions, with an annual average of more than 12 thousand.