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Bangladesh: Bangladesh Red Crescent Society helps workers returning from Libya

22-03-2011 Feature

Since the current crisis erupted in Libya, the ICRC has been helping thousands of Bangladeshi workers who have fled the country. Operating in conjunction with the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, the ICRC has been supporting the Red Crescent volunteers who have been working day and night at Dhaka airport since 27 February, reassuring returnees and giving them the opportunity to call their families.

Between 27 February and 14 March, returning workers have made almost 10,000 calls. Many returnees had been out of touch with their families for a long time. Indeed, the vast majority were unable to contact their loved ones even once they had reached the safety of camps on Libya's borders.

The returnees are often traumatized: many have lost not only their dreams for the future, but also their belongings, in situations they still can't bring themselves to describe. Abdul’s story was typical: “When the crisis started, my employer disappeared without paying us, so me and some of the other employees decided to head for the Tunisian border. Thieves attacked us along the way, and stole all my money and everything else I had.”

Red Crescent medical staff are also working at the airport, assisted by doctors from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. They offer a brief medical check and give basic medicine to those most in need. An ambulance from the Red Crescent's Holy Family Hospital is standing by at the airport for emergency cases. So far, the Red Crescent has transferred one person to hospital. In recent days, three injured returnees had to be taken back to their villages in special vehicles provided by the ICRC since they were in no condition to take public transport. Since 27 February, almost 1500 migrant workers have used the Red Crescent’s medical service.

Abu Bakar, Secretary-General of the Bangladesh Red Crescent, points out that the medical team are not the only helpers, as tracing staff have also been on hand to assist the returnees. Numerous Bangladeshi families have approached the ICRC and the Red Crescent for help getting in touch with their relatives working in Libya. The ICRC is processing the information supplied by the families so that the organization's field staff in Libya can trace them with the help of the Libyan Red Crescent.

According to the International Organization for Migration, which is coordinating their repatriation, some 19,000 Bangladeshis have so far returned home. The organization arranged the repatriation of 15,570 Bangladeshi nationals, while some 3,350 others came through their employers. Many more are expected to return in the coming days.


Photos

Dhaka Airport, Bangladesh. A Bangladesh Red Crescent Society medical team looks after a Bangladeshi migrant worker who has just arrived from Tunisia after fleeing the Libyan conflict. 

Dhaka Airport, Bangladesh. A Bangladesh Red Crescent Society medical team looks after a Bangladeshi migrant worker who has just arrived from Tunisia after fleeing the Libyan conflict.
© ICRC / O. Razzaq

Dhaka Airport, Bangladesh. Habibul calls his wife on a phone provided by the ICRC and Bangladesh Red Crescent, having not spoken to her since the unrest started in Libya. Overcome with emotion, all his wife could stammer out was  

Dhaka Airport, Bangladesh. Habibul calls his wife on a phone provided by the ICRC and Bangladesh Red Crescent, having not spoken to her since the unrest started in Libya. Overcome with emotion, all his wife could stammer out was "I've prepared food for you. Please come back into my life!"
© ICRC / L. Derighetti

Dhaka Airport, Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi migrant worker talks to ICRC protection field officer Shirin Sultana on arriving from Tunisia after fleeing the Libyan conflict. 

Dhaka Airport, Bangladesh. A Bangladeshi migrant worker talks to ICRC protection field officer Shirin Sultana on arriving from Tunisia after fleeing the Libyan conflict.
© ICRC / L. Derighetti