The tiny South Asian island state of Maldives, according to a FE report, plans to deport Bangladeshis working or staying there illegally. The deportation decision has, reportedly, come following continuous entry of illegal Bangladeshi workers to that country, having a population of only 400,000. According to the Maldivian foreign minister, the number of Bangladeshis in his country is around 50,000 now and one-third of them are either working or staying there illegally. The minister has urged Dhaka to take appropriate steps to stop illegal migration to the Maldives, which, he said has become a thriving business for unscrupulous manpower recruiting agencies.
The decision of the Maldivian authorities to deport illegal Bangladeshi nationals should be considered quite embarrassing for Bangladesh. However, the incidence of deportation of illegal Bangladeshi workers from the countries of the Middle East, South East Asia and Europe is not infrequent. It does take place within or beyond the knowledge of the authorities concerned in Dhaka. But the issue of deportation is neither taken seriously nor does it give rise to any feeling of embarrassment here.
Hundreds of thousands Bangladesh nationals are working in countries across the world, with their heavy concentration in the Middle East and Southeast Asia and remitting more than $10 billion a year, a vital economic lifeline of the country. However, a good number of them are illegal workers having no valid work permits. But remittance coming from such illegal workers has been not without a cost. The illegal workers, who generally enter carrying tourist visas and overstay, are not liked by the authorities of the countries where they are employed. This has created a sort of image problem for Bangladesh in the outside world.
One may like it or not but the fact remains that because of the illegal entry or overstay of Bangladeshis, the immigration officials at many international airports do not show proper courtesy to Bangladesh passport-holders. On occasions even holders of valid visas are deliberately subjected to hassles. The issue of illegal Bangladeshi workers loudly indicates to two factors--- lack of employment opportunities at home and highhandedness of the unscrupulous manpower agents. The problem of unemployment or under-employment is an economic issue having wider implications and it cannot be resolved overnight.
Most Bangladeshi migrant workers are unskilled and the state has not been able to create the conditions for facilitating jobs even for a fraction of the unemployed unskilled or semi-skilled people. The same is true in the case of educated workforce. However, the service sector, which now contributes more than 50 per cent of the GDP, has been absorbing a substantial number of professionals, skilled and unskilled workers. Yet without ensuring adequate investment both by the private and public sectors, the problem of unemployment, which has been a proven-source of many social ills, would continue to stay.
The government, however, if it desires so, can, at least, deal with rogue manpower agents who lure unsuspecting unskilled workers and send them abroad with false visas or work permits. Such illegal workers do always remain vulnerable to police torture and many other dangers. Death stalks them while they try to enter countries in Europe or Southeast Asia illegally using sea or land routes. But the authorities here other than cancellation of a few licences have done nothing to mete out strong punishment to evil manpower agents. Exemplary punishment, it is felt, would help curb the sending of workers abroad with forged documents, to a large extent.