As part of a lockdown procedure, the Bangladesh government suspended operations of all domestic and international passenger flights to contain the spread of Covid-19 effective from April 14. Yet in the midst of the lockdown, the government decided to operate special flights to five countries, including four countries in the Middle East with a high concentration of Bangladeshi workers, from April 17. This decision was taken perhaps to ease the problems of migrant workers who needed to be back at their workplaces. But the flights were not given landing permission at the destined airports, which was very disheartening for the hundreds of migrant workers who were on those flights.
Our migrant workers are collectively acting as the backbone of the macro economy of the country. As such their contribution to the development of our beloved Bangladesh is undeniable. Therefore, it is imperative to have a migrant-worker-friendly environment within the country. The current travel fiasco of the migrant workers whose flights got cancelled due to some miscommunication or lack of coordination between the authorities of the countries of origin and destination of the flights are most unfortunate. Returning to the country of origin without being able to alight at the flight destination can be harrowing and highly stressful for even the most well-to-do seasoned traveler. But for the migrant workers, it is a thousand times more distressful as it is not a pleasure trip for them but the opportunity to earn a livelihood for their family’s upkeep. In the worst case scenario, there is the fear that it may nullify the employment opportunity and livelihood of the migrant workers at those destination countries. In addition to their woes of job insecurity, their hard-earned money has been wasted on travel costs, which most can ill afford at these hard pandemic times.This recent flight-plight of the migrants forces us to recall the pathetic scenario in last year of the plight of the garment workers who were made to go back and forth literally on foot from homesteads to workplaces. It was criticised by all as a heartless move by the garment owners. The sufferings of the cancelled flight returnee migrants are worse. Many are hanging around the international airport, unsure of their immediate future and destination, not having a place to put up in the capital. Decisions must be taken to ease their problems rationally, involving all the stakeholders.