April 26, 2011 - When the current conflict in Libya began in February 2011, many of the migrant workers were left to fend for themselves. The World Bank is helping restore the lives of Bangladeshi migrant workers escaping the ongoing conflict in Libya.
Supporting the Return and Livelihood Restoration of Migrant Workers
Libya had approximately 70,000-80,000 Bangladeshi workers before the current crisis, constituting the majority of the South Asian workers in the country. Remittances from this group were $1.5 million in 2010.
Bangladesh has an estimated 6 million workers abroad, accounting for close to 4% of its population. The majority of Bangladeshi migrants work in the Middle East and North Africa and are mostly employed laborers, particularly in the construction sector. In 2009, remittance inflows were equivalent to about 12% of its economy and are among the largest and most stable source of foreign exchange making a noticeable developmental impact.
Although promised decent wages, some left almost empty handed and in debt after paying thousands of dollars to agencies that sent them there. Because of this, many are unable to afford their passage back home. With the assistance of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), close to 30,000 had been repatriated by April 13, 2011.
It is estimated that between 35,000-45,000 Bangladeshi workers remain stranded in Libya. As of April 13th, around 1,000 were still in camps such as Ra' Ajdir on the Tunisian-Libran border awaiting repatriation. There is a continuing daily inflow of new refugees and given the ongoing military action in Libya, a further surge of refugees could be expected.
The majority of these workers are poor, and many have lost their possessions during their trek to the border. Therefore, many are not able to arrange or pay for their own transportation back to their home countries. Carrying all their possessions on their backs, many trudged through the desert towards the borders of neighboring countries trying to avoid robbery, gunfire and having to scrounge for food.
The $40 million World Bank supported Repatriation and Livelihood Restoration for Migrant Workers Project will finance part of the the cost of transport returnees and provide a one-time $775 cash grant upon arrival in Bangladesh to support their immediate needs while helping returning workers seek available employment opportunities at home and abroad to commence the process of livelihood restoration.
“The crisis has created a very serious situation requiring humanitarian support by the international community,” Bernice Van Bronkhorst, Project Team Leader said. “For those who have only recently migrated, this crisis has not only rendered them penniless but heavily indebted. The project is designed to help them get back on their feet.”