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Bangladesh

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Capital Dhaka
Population (2013): 156.6 million
Area:  143,998 km sq
Languages :  Bangla (Bengali)
Currency:  Taka (BDT)
GDP per Capita PPP (2013): USD 2,557
HDI Rank (2013): 142 of 187
Remittances (2013 estimate):  USD 13,776 million
Net Migration Rate (2010-2015):     -2.6 migrants/1,000 population
Immigrants (2013):  0.9%
Women as a Percentage of Immigrants  (2013): 13.4%
Population under 15 (2013): 30%
Adult HIV Prevalence (2013):  0.01%
Sources and Definitions

Overview

It is estimated that over five million Bangladeshis are currently working overseas, contributing greatly to their families, communities and the country’s economy through remittances. Remittances sent by migrants through official channels reached a record high level of USD 11 billion in 2010. Migration is increasingly being recognized as a viable livelihood option and one of the major development issues for Bangladesh.

The growth in migration from Bangladesh and the increasing levels of remittances and consequent benefits to the society and the country are not without its challenges. Alongside regular and beneficial migration - irregular migration, informal channels of remittance and human trafficking continue to result in serious violations of migrants' rights and an increasing number of Bangladeshi irregular migrants are apprehended in destination countries. Other contributing factors include irregular recruitment practices and abuses, rising migration costs, and a lack of data and follow-up with returning migrants, who have greater vulnerability in terms of infectious diseases, psychological well-being and lack of access to appropriate health services. Health of mobile populations is a growing concern expressed by governments, international organizations, NGOs, and civil society on many international fora.

In order to address some of these challenges, Government operational and administrative capacity needs to be enhanced. Responses include further investment and assistance in cross-border technical cooperation, capacity-building of bilateral and regional border checkpoints, prevention of migration-related crime, awareness-raising on the risks of irregular migration and improved labour migration management.

Additionally, trafficking in persons including the trafficking of women and children for commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking of men, women and children for labour exploitation, remains a grave concern in the country and the region. In order to combat trafficking, the capacity of relevant authorities in Bangladesh and relevant destination countries is being strengthened. Furthermore, awareness raising activities on safe migration are being conducted. Innovative ventures building on principles of Corporate Social Responsibility and Private Public Partnership have been initiated for economic empowerment and reintegrating victims of trafficking.

In addition to the challenges mentioned above, about one million people have become vulnerable internal migrants in Bangladesh due to environmental factors such as frequent natural disasters, drought, floods and riverbank erosion. The unique geographic location and characteristics of Bangladesh, coupled with the myriad of developmental challenges including extreme poverty continue to contribute to its exposure to a wide range of destructive natural hazards such as cyclones, storms, flooding and erosion. It is expected that increasingly larger numbers of people will continue to be displaced owing to the exacerbating effects of environmental degradation and climate change. In order to combat some of these detrimental effects on already vulnerable populations, initiatives are being undertaken to increase awareness on the effects of environmental and climate change factors on population movements, and to mainstream migration into all climate change adaptation policies.

Movement, Emergency and Post-crisis Migration Management

IOM has a two-fold focus on Movement, Emergency and Post-crisis Migration Management in facilitating the movement of nationals on cross-border issues, making arrangements for family reunification, coordinating movement of stranded workers and to intervene in the area of internal migration induced by different socio-economic and environmental factors in Bangladesh.

Following the civilian demonstrations and uprising in Tunisia and Egypt in mid-February, Libya faced similar protests by the people against the Muammar Qadhafi-led government. Unrest spread rapidly throughout the country leading to increasing levels of violence, resulting in large scale population outflows from Libya to neighbouring Tunisia and Egypt, and eventually Niger and Algeria as well. Since the violence started, over 686,422 migrants have fled Libya, including more than 261,118 third country nationals (TCNs). Within the large number of TCNs, most were migrant workers primarily from South and Southeast Asia and Sub Saharan Africa. This has been the largest migration crisis since the 1st Gulf War in the 1990s, which had led to the evacuation of approximately 250,000 persons.

With the exception of Tunisians and Egyptians, Bangladeshi nationals made up the largest segment of TCNs fleeing Libya. Since the outbreak of unrest, approximately 35,000 Bangladeshi nationals have been repatriated back to Bangladesh through IOM assistance, Biman charters and a small percentage with the assistance of their employers and personal means. In addition, IOM provided on arrival assistance at the airport in Dhaka to facilitate smooth processing of the large number of returnees and flights. Moreover, IOM Dhaka also sent staff to Tunisia for additional support to the large number of Bangladeshi nationals at the camps awaiting repatriation.

Following the damage caused by Cyclone Aila in May 2009 in the southern regions of Bangladesh, IOM provides shelter and non food items (NFIs) to 24,000 internally displaced families. In total, Aila affected over 120,000 people, of which the two worst hit districts were Khulna and Satkhira, displacing a total of 76,478 families, of which 25,928 families were found living on damaged embankments.

This was the largest shelter and NFI distribution received by any single agency in 2009, and was implemented with two partner NGOs in the affected areas. IOM established a Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) in order to obtain and share up to date information on the displacement situation. Other activities included an orientation of Locally Elected Bodies (LEBs) and community awareness through drama to reduce the risk and vulnerability of the IDPs being trafficked and smuggled. A Joint Position Paper was developed as part of IOM’s coordination and advocacy activities - led by IOM, with 13 other INGOs, NGOs, and UN agencies.

Project

  • Provision of shelter homes and protection needs for 24,000 IDP families in the Khulna Division affected by Cyclone 'Aila'

Environment, Climate Change and Migration

It has long been recognised that environmental factors have an impact on migration, but until recently the issue received comparatively little attention within mainstream debates about the movements of people, both within and between states. Both gradual environmental change and extreme environmental events influence population migration patterns but in different ways. Recent debates about the impacts of climate change have placed the issue firmly within the policy spotlight and there exists a growing body of research into the 'climate change-environment-migration nexus.

In this context, IOM has published a study titled Assessing the Evidence: Environment, Climate Change and Migration in Bangladesh and organized a Policy Dialogue on the same topic in May 2010 to contribute to mainstreaming concrete short and long term migration adaptation strategies in Bangladesh.

Migration Health

The Migration Health Division (MHD) of IOM in Bangladesh addresses health needs of migrants with a primary focus on medical conditions related to public health / public safety by mitigating risks among the vulnerable populations and local communities. IOM has a migration health network in Bangladesh operating through stationary IOM Migration Health Assessment Clinics MHACs (sub offices) located in Dhaka, Chittagong and Sylhet. Mobile medical teams assembled and tailored to specific health requirements cover remote areas close to refugee camps South East of the country.

Established as a single programme unit operating for United Kingdom Tuberculosis Detection Programme (UKTBDP) in 2005 the medical team gradually developed into a well structured Migration Health Division and currently provides assistance to migrants traveling to Australia, Canada, Italy, New Zealand, United Kingdom, United States permanently and to other beneficiaries on a need on basis: migrants to Cayman Islands, Georgia, Ireland, Norway. Taking advantage of well established clinical practice IOM developed competitive services for visa applicants and migrants working hand to hand with local health practitioners and clinical centers.

Under its HIV projects, IOM has completed HIV risk assessment of the returning labour migrants collecting information at the airport, a small scale situation assessment on the vulnerability to HIV infection, current knowledge and misconceptions surrounding HIV/AIDS and services needs among Bangladesh labour migrants. In addition, IOM continues raising HIV awareness among returnee and potential migrants as well as their spouses through community based programmes and activities, distribution of information leaflets and short video films on HIV prevention among migrant workers. In addition, a referral system for VCT and STI services has been developed in the project areas. A one minute TV spot has also been developed for the national TV channel.

A new project on reducing HIV vulnerability of the women migrant workers will include a needs assessment study among women labour migrants in regards to HIV prevention services and publication of the report; development and distribution of booklets with HIV prevention messages; training of trainers for women labour migrants; community based HIV awareness raising programmes and women-specific radio programme to create generalized HIV awareness.

MHD supplemented health response to emergency assistance of Bangladeshi returnees arriving from MENA countries by establishing health communication channels between medical teams in ports of departure and the major health providers on arrival (MoH and ICRC/BDRCS brigades), taking care of known serious medical cases requiring extensive coordination with the Airport Authorities. Many MHD health workers volunteered to come and assist on weekends.

Projects

  • United Kingdom Pre-Departure Tuberculosis Detection Programme
  • Health Assistance to UK Gateway Resettlement Action Programme
  • Health Assistance to Australian Refugee Resettlement Programme
  • Health Assistance to Canadian Refugee Resettlement Programme
  • Health Assistance to US-bound Refugees ex Bangladesh
  • Facilitating Italian Family Reunification through DNA Testing
  • Capacity Building of Law Enforcement Agencies for Tri-partite Project (completed)
  • HIV Preventive Education and Services for Bangladeshi Labour Migrants (completed)
  • HIV Prevention Initiatives for Returning Labour Migrants (ongoing)
  • Reducing Vulnerability of Female Labour Migrants to STI, HIV and AIDS (ongoing)
  • Supporting Bangladeshi Female Migrants: Building the Evidence and Increasing Service Delivery (upcoming)

Migration and Development

Labour migration is an important and viable livelihood option for Bangladeshis. In 2010, approximately 391,000 migrants went abroad for overseas employment and estimates suggest that there are currently more than 7 million Bangladeshis living abroad. Migration has not only contributed to reducing pressure on the domestic economy and the unemployment rate, it has also encouraged socio-economic development possibilities at the national, community and individual levels.

Remittances have major development impacts on Bangladesh’s economy and society. According to the World Bank, Bangladesh is one of the top 10 remittance recipient countries. Remittances from Bangladeshi migrants have been seen to grow at an average rate of 17 percent since 2001 and reached a record high of approximately USD 11 billion in 2010. Apart from macro implications such as impact on trade balance and foreign exchange reserve of the country, remittance remains a private fund, being diverted directly to the development of migrants’ families and communities. IOM works to regularize the current practices by reducing the demand for illegal remittance channels by creating awareness among migrants and their families and provides technical support and training to the Bangladeshi banks located overseas and Labour Attaches to improve services for migrant workers. These are intended to ensure better utilization of remittances such as savings and investments to optimize the overall positive effects of migration.

IOM and the Government of Bangladesh have set up a Migrant Resource Centres (MRC) in the capital in 2008 and have set up similar centres in seven other key migrant-sending districts during 2010 to early 2011. The main goal is to assist potential migrant workers with valuable information on safe migration and educate them on step-by-step procedures to regular migration. The MRCs also cross-check employment contracts, visa papers and other important documents of migrant workers to further ensure safe migration. Additionally, a Market Research Unit (MRU), has been set up to promote the skills of Bangladeshi migrants and explore new job markets for Bangladeshi workers. IOM also prepared a documentary film for the government to support promotion of Bangladeshi workers abroad.

IOM has provided capacity building support to institute massive skill development and language training programmes for upgrading skills and diversifying the labour market for Bangladeshi overseas workers and to promote and sustain the overseas market for women migrant workers including developed trainers and a training wing for housekeeping at the Faridpur Technical Training Center (TTC). IOM Dhaka has enhanced the capacity of the existing Migrant Welfare Desks at the international airport in Dhaka and through its technical support to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).

Additionally, IOM continues to support the Government to enhance dialogue on labour migration issues through Regional Consultative Processes (RCP) such as the RCP on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labour for Countries of Origin in Asia, also known as the Colombo Process. Bangladesh assumed the chairmanship of the Colombo Process in December 2009, and IOM Dhaka has provided technical support to the Government in preparing for the Fourth Ministerial Consultations held 19-21 April 2011.

Projects

  • Improved Utilization, Tracking and Understanding of Remittance Services
  • Regional Programme and Dialogue on Facilitating Safe and Legal Migration from South Asia to the European Union
  • Comprehensive Information Campaign to Enhance Public Awareness on Safe Migration in Bangladesh

Regulating Migration

IOM works to strengthen counter-trafficking interventions in the 4 Ps, Prevention, Protection, Prosecution and Policy, rescue, voluntary repatriation, reintegration of trafficked victims in Bangladesh and collaborates with the government, law enforcement agencies, grass root organizations and corporate partners to develop a platform where the four pillars of counter trafficking are covered.

IOM has organized awareness-raising activities such as focus group discussions, courtyard and bazaar meetings, IEC materials for schools, cultural events with the use of locally popular forms of songs, drama and interactive theatre and fairs. Additionally, IOM has produced two TV commercials, a telefilm and a docudrama focusing on various trafficking issues and irregular migration. Ms. Momtaz Begom, a popular folksinger and Member of the National Parliament was engaged as the goodwill ambassador of IOM for safe migration and counter-trafficking. In her capacity as the goodwill ambassador, she also played a key role in the docudrama 'Bonpora Horini'.

In order to prevent trafficking and re-trafficking, income generation and sustainable livelihoods options have been provided for vulnerable populations and trafficking survivor. Additionally, through public-private partnerships and utilizing the concept of corporate social responsibility, IOM has set up Kafé Muktis (coffee kiosks run by trafficking survivors) for the economic reintegration of trafficking survivors. It has generated keen interest among both the Government of Bangladesh, project partners and the private sector to be replicated.

IOM also continues capacity building activities including strengthening of the Counter Trafficking Committees through revision of existing committee guidelines. Moreover, Training-of-Trainers (TOT) and training sessions for judiciary officials were organized with a total of 148 judiciary personnel for effective prosecution of trafficking offenders and assistance to victims in legal matters. In addition, 26 caregivers and managers from the governmental safe homes and NGO shelter homes were trained on "psychosocial counseling and support for VoTs and other forms of violence".

A project on the review of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) Convention on Trafficking has conducted a comprehensive review of the status of trafficking in persons in the region, as well as the implementation of the Convention and suggested recommendations for strengthened counter trafficking efforts. The momentum generated from this review resulted in the Government of Bangladesh undertaking to draft a comprehensive law on human trafficking with the technical support of IOM. The draft law was shared nationally on 20 December 2010 and based on the feedback from the consultation, the final draft has been completed and submitted to the government.

IOM has been working with the immigration system and the Special Branch of Bangladesh Police where the immigration management system has been upgraded by organising specialized training programmes for the immigration officials, providing specialised equipment and software for travel document examination, establishing radio link and also established secondary examination unit, Document Analysis Centre (DAC) at the international airport in Dhaka and Benapole Land Border checkpoint, with a third planned for Chittagong. Bangladesh Police’s software Criminal Database Management Software (CDMS) will shortly be operational with additions on trafficked victims’ information to more efficiently manage a database.

Through the project on Assistance Programme on Counter Trafficking (APCT) in Chittagong, Cox’s Bazaar and Bandarban in the Chittagong region, IOM in partnership with GoB aims to combat irregular migration including trafficking in persons through mass awareness raising, outreach initiatives and mobilization of the civil society partners, religious leaders and law enforcement agencies. In addition, it will assist rescued victims of trafficking and other forms of violence with physical and mental health care support, legal-counseling, and short-term shelter for the direct needs or through referral services.

Projects

  • Capacity Building of District Police Anti-Trafficking Monitoring Cells to Manage an Effective Database and Combat Human Trafficking
  • Support to Strengthen Legal Framework to Combat Trafficking in Bangladesh
  • Regional Programme and Dialogue on Facilitating Safe and Legal Migration from South Asia to the European Union
  • Integrating Human Trafficking and Safe Migration Concerns for Women and Children into Regional Cooperation
  • Enhancing Understanding of, and Develop interventions on, Irregular Migration and Human Trafficking from and to Bangladesh
  • Strengthening Immigration Management System (IMS) to Combat Terrorism
  • Assistance Programme on Counter Trafficking in Chittagong, Cox’s Bazaar and Irregular Migration in Bandarban districts of Bangladesh

Facilitating Migration: Return and Reintegration

IOM works with different governments and has been designing and implementing return and resettlement programmes and offering support to both government and returnees in the form of Assisted Voluntary Return (AVR – Iraq, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, Ukraine, Libya, Morocco), Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP – UK) and the Return Information Fund (RIF – Switzerland), AVR programme with IOM France (ARER). IOM also assists rejected asylum seekers, trafficked victims, stranded migrants, labour migrants and qualified nationals to return home on a voluntary basis and family reunification and tracing of migrants and individuals. A document verification programme for the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Programme (AINP) is also being conducted on a regular basis.

IOM facilitates refugee resettlement programmes including movement, travel and cultural orientation training to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Norway, Ireland and the UK. In addition, IOM is engaged in family tracing programmes.

Projects

  • Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme - VARRP
  • AVR programme with IOM France – ARER
  • Assisted Voluntary Return – AVR
  • Return Information Fund - RIF
  • Refugee Resettlement Programmes
  • Verification for the Alberta Immigrant Nominee Programme

Migration and Research

The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment formed a ten-member Inter-Ministerial Committee to review laws and regulations relating to migration and overseas employment and to recommend practical strategy and the strengthening of monitoring mechanisms to prevent exploitation of migrant workers. IOM has complemented this government initiative by conducting four studies on the subject.

In addition, IOM has undertaken a regional study to identify the gaps and limitations in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Convention both in its provisions and applications and submit recommendations to the member states. IOM is also instrumental in conducting studies in the areas of migration health and recently, in collaboration with the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh (ICDDR,B) conducted a study called “Impact of Migration on the Health of Bangladeshi Labour Migrants”. IOM has also carried out a comprehensive household remittance survey and published the findings, including a study on Migration, Remittances and Assets in Bangladesh. Additional studies on different aspects of facilitating labour migration, including remittance corridors and remittance utilization by migrant families are also in the pipeline. A Migration Profile for Bangladesh is being prepared by a think tank institute, to be updated by the government periodically and used by the relevant stakeholders. Furthermore, a study of the review of the current recruitment monitoring mechanism in Bangladesh was conducted, and through which the findings were disseminated at a national consultation workshop in 2010.

Projects

  • Integrating Human Trafficking and Safe Migration Concerns for Women and Children into Regional Cooperation
  • Counter-Trafficking Interventions in Prevention and Prosecution for Victims of Trafficking in Persons in Bangladesh
  • Regional Dialogue and Programme on Facilitating Legal Migration between Asia and the European Union

Last updated:
Main text: May 2011
Facts and figures: August 2014

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