More and more Bangladeshis are seeking asylum in Europe, most of them fleeing war-torn countries in the Middle East, while many of the others are alleging political persecution in Bangladesh.
The country ranked 15th among 28 countries in 2013 and 2014 for asylum seekers in Europe, and held eighth position among 30 countries last year, according to recent Eurostat data. The number of asylum seeking Bangladeshis was 9,140 in 2013. It rose to 11,680 in 2014 and 16,875 in 2015.
Migration experts say not all the asylum seekers have valid grounds but they are claiming persecution and using the asylum process to seek a better life in the developed world.
Many opposition activists also left the country in the last couple of years as hundreds of cases were filed for their alleged involvement in subversive activities in the name of anti-government movement.
The applicants also include some secularist writers and publishers, who left Bangladesh fearing attacks following the recent series of killings by religious extremists and prosecution by the law enforcers for hurting religious sentiment of the Muslims.
“Irregular migrations and allegation of involvement with militant groups create an image crisis for the country.
The government should address this matter as soon as possible. Otherwise, we may lose our existing and potential labour markets,” said Dr Mohammad Jalal Uddin Sikder, senior research fellow at Refugee and Migratory Movements Research Unit (RMMRU).
“Most of the Bangladeshi asylum seekers go to Europe from war-affected Libya as they lost their jobs and have been facing security crisis. Many people returned to the country but some others are going to European countries, mainly Italy, via two countries – Sudan and Iraq,” he said.
“We are just thinking about sending workers abroad and earning remittances. But do we care about them? The Bangladesh government should address this issue sincerely,” Jalal, who also teaches at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh (ULAB), told the Dhaka Tribune.
Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) yesterday released a report titled “The Refugee Surge in Europe: Economic Challenges” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
According to the report, through November 2015, as many as 77,970 applications were placed before Italy by asylum seekers. Many of them are from Bangladesh, Nigeria, Pakistan, Gambia and Senegal.
In 2015, about 995,000 first-time asylum applications were submitted in the European Union countries through October, more than twice the number over the same period in 2014.
The number rose high in the first 10 months of 2015, with the situation reaching crisis proportions during the summer.
The IMF says that the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide reached almost 60 million at the end of 2014, the highest number in the past 70 years. Among these, 14.4m were refugees, an increase of about 25% since the end of 2013.
It estimates that on a GDP-weighted basis, average budgetary expenses for asylum seekers in the EU countries could increase by 0.05-0.1% of GDP in 2015 and 2016, respectively, compared to 2014. These estimates are highly tentative, reflecting, in particular, uncertainty over the number of asylum seekers.
Immigrants may affect the labour market outcomes of native workers through three main channels: labour supply effect, aggregate demand effect, and allocation of resources, product mix and technology effects, the report said. However, the inflow of refugees would put pressure on the market for affordable housing while the housing policies will likely be particularly challenging in countries or regions where housing is already very expensive.
It also pointed out that children of immigrants have, in general, lower education outcomes than their native peers and the size of the gap varies across educational systems.
It thus suggested that the first priority is to address the humanitarian emergency in conflicts countries, neighbouring countries, along the refugee routes, and in refugee destination countries.