Migration is not an apolitical phenomenon. To be precise, it is an outcome of the governing process and policies. The Awami League-led government has declared the labour migration sector as a ‘thrust sector’ and already incorporated such initiative which reflects the willingness of policy planners and stakeholders to place migration on a national policy agenda. Since 2009, the Bangladesh Awami League led government headed by Honorable Prime Minister (HPM) Sheikh Hasina has taken a number of steps to ensure safe, orderly, regular, and responsible migration.
"The time has come to set the world on a new path of constructive cooperation, instead of populists’ preferred path of destructive unilateralism- HPM Sheikh Hasina in an article in Project Syndicate"
Smart card initiation, accelerated remittance management, labour market research cell, training institute for skilled and semi- skilled labour, migration health facilities are some of these initiatives implemented by the Awami League Government for sound management of migration. Compared to other countries of South Asia, Bangladesh has fared relatively well in two out of the five indicators in the Migration Governance Index 2016, released by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU) of the reputed publication 'The Economist'.
Bangladesh has secured enviable successes in achieving the United Nation’s (UN) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and already established new parameters for the world in going about the task of achieving the newly formulated Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). If Bangladesh wants to replicate its MDG’s successes as regards the SDGs, then it must appropriately address the outstanding issues of migration. Apart from the MDGs and SDGs, Bangladesh has its own framework for development and the architect of this model of development is HPM Sheikh Hasina. It is the vision of Sheikh Hasina, the 'People's Leader', to turn Bangladesh into a high middle income country by 2021 (Vision 2021) and a developed country by 2041 (Vision 2041). While Bangladesh has already become a lower middle income country in 2015, there remains work to be done.
Remittances, migration and development are interrelated as they are all relevant to the social, economic, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development (World Bank, 2010). In the last few years, increased remittance flow has undoubtedly been contributing to the economic development of Bangladesh. In 2015-16, Bangladesh earned almost $15 billion from incoming remittances.
Global Compact on Migration
Bangladesh, a pioneer of sharing the idea of ‘Global Compact on Migration ’ , broadly focuses on safe, regular and orderly migration. The current government believes that migration is no more an internal issue where we can see a massive flow of people’s movement throughout the world. Today’s nation-State boundary and surveillance becomes irrelevant before the regular migration scenario. As the current chair of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) , Bangladesh has adopted certain measures to ensure safer migration. In a very recent Consultation meeting arranged by Bangladesh Institute of International & Strategic Studies (BIISS) on ‘Migration in Crisis situation’; Mr. Mohammed Abdiker, Director for Operations and Emergencies (DOE) of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), mentioned that, IOM has taken such initiatives to settle a global forum on migration on the basis of HPM Sheikh Hasina’s suggestion in the recent United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) summit, under this attempt for the first time UN will form a framework, where countries will uphold necessary steps regarding rights and protection of migrants.
HPM Sheikh Hasina mentioned in an article written for Project Syndicate, that migration is a multidimensional issue and it requires a comprehensive approach which is respectable to existing national laws and regulations. Bangladesh has promoted such migration policies which can reconcile any conflicting situations within proper institutional and legal frameworks by effective migration governance. The Awami League led government has taken distinctive policy measures to overcome the hurdles of migration governance and notably, Bangladesh has achieved landmark appreciation in home and abroad as regards labour migration. The government has introduced the "Overseas Employment and Migration Law, 2013" to ensure transparency and accountability of the recruiting agencies and to reduce the cost of migration.
Policy Measures for Migration
Three triggering facts contributing towards effective implementation of safe migration policy concerns, namely; welfare of overseas workers and strict management of trafficking issues. Potential contribution of migration in development perspectives has been acknowledged by many national policies and planning. Some of the important national policies formulated by the Awami League government are-
National Skills Development Policy 2011: Which acknowledges prompt response to the global labour demands and to arrange more skilled based training.
Overseas Employment and Migration Act, 2013: To ensure legitimate and safe migration the Act strengthens provisions for compulsory registration, electronic manpower clearance (smartcard), accountability and responsibility of recruiting agencies and evaluation of their activities.
Overseas Employment Policy 2013: To create more scope for men and women so that they can work independently with dignity through recognition.
Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Policy, 2016: To encourage and ensure safe migration, protection of migrant workers and their family members, ensuring facilities and welfare of migrant workers, migration of female workers.
Sixth Five Year Plan (SFYP) 2011‐2015: A mid-term plan has been formulated focusing upon remittance as the key factor of development and based on this, it formed a new overseas employment strategy which focused on semi-skilled and skilled manpower training and development. This helped Bangladesh in achieving a robust growth in its remittance earnings year-on-year between 2011 and 2015.
Seventh Five Year Plan (SFYP) 2016‐2021: Which, among others, promotes overseas labour market opportunities, and ensuring the protection of migrant workers’ human and labour rights.
Perspective Plan 2010‐ 2021: This long term plan to achieve Vision 2021, with12 specific development goals, had four specific goals associated with migration directly.
Encouraging Migration and Remittance Inflow
HPM Sheikh Hasina set a very high priority to reinvigorating the Saudi Arabian market, therefore a high level coordination was settled with King Abdullah to relax the moratoriumand resolve the issue of 'Akama'. Apart from that, successful MOU were exchanged with such labour demand intensive countries as Kuwait, Jordan, Qatar, Malaysia, UAE, Oman and Iraq.
A number of steps have been taken to encourage remittance inflow in legal ways. The government has collaborated with drawing system of foreign exchange houses with commercial banks to send the money directly to beneficiaries. There are 1,100 such drawing systems in operation.
To reduce the money transfer fee and exchange rate margin, commercial banks have been instructed not to exercise the conditions like Pay Cash Exclusivity Clause in the deals between the bank and multinational money exchange companies. It ensures a healthy competition among the money transfer companies. A policy has been implemented to introduce foreign exchange houses of Bangladeshi commercial banks in foreign countries. Currently, 34 foreign exchange houses of Bangladeshi banks are currently operating in countries like United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Greece, Italy, Canada, Oman and Maldives.
To expand the remittance distribution network, the Awami League Government has given approval to 24 commercial banks to distribute remittances through mobile operators. Currently, 18 banks have mobile banking facilities also encourage investments from non-resident Bangladeshis (NRB), the current government has provided licenses to three NRB banks. These banks have already started operating in the country.
While lot of progress has been achieved and still more to achieve, Awami League Government’s slogan “Bangladesh is speeding relentlessly in the highway of development” proves that the Awami League government does not rest upon securing some success, but keeps on speeding up in the full gear without slowing down. HPM Sheikh Hasina has set her eyes on safe, orderly and regular migration. HPM Sheikh Hasina succinctly stated her target in this regard to attain the best in migration issues.