Fleeing Crisis in Libya to a New Beginning

August 27, 2011

Returning Home

August 27, 2011 - Earlier this year, Mohammed Faruk Ahmed was one of 37,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers forced to flee the conflict in Libya. Forsaking his job and only source of income, he returned home empty handed...


Returning to a new life

Now, Ahmed now has a chance to rebuild his life at home, thanks to a Bank-sponsored initiative to repatriate and support Bangladeshi migrants from Libya.

Since the conflict erupted, Bangladeshi workers crowded camps along the Libyan border. Some had trudged through the desert hungry and destitute, and terrified by gunfire and robbers. Stuck there for days and unable to pay their way home, they held signs that said, “Help, help, help!”

In March, the government of Bangladesh asked the World Bank to help―quickly. Using fast-track emergency procedures, it approved an operation to provide $40 million for the workers.

Of the $40 million, $12.6 million is retroactively financing the airfare of 10,000 returnees who were otherwise unable to pay to return home. $26.5 million is supporting one-time cash grants to help them meet immediate needs once they’ve returned home.

The government of Bangladesh is contributing $4.6 million, and the International Organization of Migration (IOM) raised nearly $30 million in grant funding to support the returnees.

Staff from IOM and the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment greeted returnees at the Dhaka airport. An “Expatriates’ Welfare Desk” was set up to collect their information, in order to create a database of Bangladeshi workers returning from Libya.

The one-time cash-grant program was announced widely through the radio and newspapers, and text messages were sent to the returnees’ cell phones.

A call center has been in operation since July to facilitate the registration and verification process. Libya returnees must call the center to make an appointment to register and go through verification. An in-person verification process is ensuring the process is transparent and foolproof.

A verification center, with trained staff and IT equipment, is located at a government training center, where IOM has set up numerous verification booths. The center can process verification of about 450 returnees per day.

Following verification, the grant is transferred directly to the returnee’s bank account. At every step of the process, good governance and transparent delivery procedures have been given priority, along with the need for expediency and quick disbursement.

Sadly, the uncertainty is still not over for the returnees. Many bear a burden of great debt to the “recruitment” agencies which sent them to Libya. The situation is especially bad for those who had only recently migrated. They didn’t have the time to earn enough to repay their debt before the crisis escalated.