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Countries often remain silent on migrant workers’ sufferings

UNB . Dhaka
21 Nov 2023 16:48:20 | Update: 21 Nov 2023 19:22:00
Countries often remain silent on migrant workers’ sufferings
A file photo of State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam — UNB

Noting that migration and human mobility are increasingly becoming more complex in today's world, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam on Tuesday said it is a tragic irony that countries that claim to be vocal on human rights issues internationally often remain "silent or in denial" about transgressions with migrant workers within their own territories.

"We witness the impractical and unacceptable realities of border walls, forced returns, offshore detention centres, willful abandonment at seas, arbitrary immigration practices, transnational criminal networks etc. proliferating around the world," he said.

The state minister was speaking as the chief guest at the inaugural session of the national preparatory consultation for the GFMD (Global Forum on Migration and Development).

Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, Chief of Mission of IOM Bangladesh Abdusattor Esoev, French Ambassador to Bangladesh Marie Masdupuy and Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen also spoke at the event.

France, acting as the 2022-2023 Chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), is set to host the 14th Summit of the GFMD in Geneva from 23 to 25 January 2024.

The Summit will revolve around the central theme of this chairmanship is "The impact of climate change on human mobility" articulated with a cross-cutting approach through the other thematic priorities.

These are the impact of climate change on human mobility; rights and migration; diasporas; labour migration; culture, narratives and migration; and multi-level governance of migration.

"We are pleased that both the upcoming COP28 in Dubai and GFMD Summit in Geneva have taken up the issue of climate change and human mobility as one of their shared priorities," said the State Minister.

The World Bank's Groundswell Report 2021 estimates that impacts of climate change in Bangladesh may drive 13.3 million people from their homes by 2050. It also predicts that climate migration could outpace other internal migration flows.

"We already observe a growing trend of such migration flows from our coastal areas and other climate hotspots to the large cities in an unmanageable manner," Shahriar said.

In some cases, he said, these movements also have a cross-border dimension resulting in added vulnerabilities for those on the move.

"The issue of climate induced human mobility, therefore, warrants better understanding and attention of our policy-makers and relevant stakeholders in the days to come," said the state minister.

He said there is now scope for looking at climate displacement from the lens of loss and damage for the lasting impacts suffered by its undeserving victims.

"We draw some satisfaction at the fact that the upcoming COP28 is likely to see the operationalisation of the Loss and Damage Fund notionally agreed upon last year," Shahriar said, urging the World Bank as the proposed custodian of the Fund to give precedence to the issue of both preventing and managing climate induced migration in resource-constrained settings.

He said their objective is not only to discuss but also to reflect their collective thoughts into a summary document that will guide Bangladesh's evidence-based inputs during the forthcoming GFMD discussions in Geneva in January 2024.

"I hope the recommendations from this national consultative meeting will be well reflected in the Summit and contribute to reshaping the global narrative on the interconnected challenges of climate change and human mobility," the state minister said.

He said, "We live in an 'age of migration'. It is estimated that migrants constitute around 3.5 per cent of the global population while their contribution to the global GDP is around 10 per cent."

Shahriar said migration is duly recognized as a critical development tool for both migrant sending and receiving countries.

"Despite our multi-pronged efforts, unsafe, unethical and irregular migration flows continue to persist at a high cost for human lives and dignity," he said.

"This, in turn, leads to growing backlash against migrants and their families, with rising obstacles to legal and humane pathways for migration," said the state minister.

Speaking at the event, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said they want to see more tangible outcomes from the GFMD so that people can understand the significance and benefits of having GFMD.

He said migrants confront numerous challenges including discrimination and exploitations. "This emphasizes the need for comprehensive reforms in recruitment practices, legal protection and support system to ensure a more equitable and just environment for migrant workers."

"On our part we remain open to learning good practices," said the foreign secretary.