On this World Refugee Day, people all over the world will affirm their commitment to humanity, from the global to the local level. Refugees are the most vulnerable people on earth and experience every suffering that is possible. Perhaps the greatest pain is that they left a home behind and have no land to call their own.
Waiting at an airport on my way home from a trip to Malaysia, a man walked up to me hesitantly and asked if I could help him fill out his immigration card. He was a Bangladeshi man in his mid-40s. While filling out his documents, we started talking and I learned that he was on a migrant worker’s visa and used to be a chef at a resort. When I asked him if he was headed home for a vacation, he informed me with a stoic expression that he was being deported for being Hepatitis B positive.
Over the past decade Bangladesh has been experiencing urbanisation at an unprecedented speed and scale. For Bangladesh, urbanisation has been identified as a leading engine of growth with the urban sector already contributing to more than 60 per cent of the GDP. On the downside, like in many other developing countries, this rapid urbanisation is also accompanied by increasing urban poverty and inequality.
As of 2014 there are more than nine million Bangladeshi migrant workers abroad. These migrants are not only supporting their family at home but they are significantly boosting Bangladesh’s national GDP. Eight percent of the total GDP of 2014 was a direct contribution of migrant remittances.
Every morning I am woken by Hawa. In Bengali, hawa means breeze, but that’s not what I am referring to. I’m talking about my part-time domestic worker called Hawa. Hawa migrated from Mymensingh to Dhaka with her mother and sister in 2009. They came to Dhaka to work as domestic workers to provide for their family, while the men in their family stayed back in the village. Hawa never went to school. She cannot read or write.
Moksedul, a Bangladeshi migrant worker who resided in Qatar for three years, almost believed that his voice was never to be heard; that his stories would remain untold. In fact, it almost came as a shock to him when he was asked to get up on stage and speak up, and speak up he did.