Unsafe migration - children ‘on the move’ in Bangladesh

Wednesday 1 July 2015

Photo: A migrant child worker takes a moment's pause from his backbreaking work at a brick kiln.

‘We need to pay special attention to safe migration, need to raise mass public awareness about safe migration, and NGOs and government stakeholders need to come forward and work continuously’ – this was the call to action from the Minister for Social Welfare, Mr. Mohsin Ali MP, at the national convention for Reducing the Impact of Unsafe Migration on Children held at BIAM auditorium (Dhaka) on 25 June 2015. The convention was organized by Save the Children in association with Plan International Bangladesh, International Organization for Migration (IOM), WINROCK International, Bangladesh National Woman Lawyers' Association and UDDIPAN.

Around 400 participants from government, local government representatives, academicians and national and international civil society organizations attended the convention where separate parallel sessions were run on topics such as Missing Child Alert Program (led by Plan International), Migration and Development (led by IOM), Human Trafficking: Trends and Challenges (led by Winrock International) and Rural Urban Child Migration (led by Save the Children).  Ms. Sheepa Hafiza, Director of Gender Justice and Diversity Migration at Brac presented the keynote paper at the convention.   

Photo: Michael McGrath (2nd from right), and Hagar Russ (first from left) were  in the panel along with Minister of Social Welfare Mr Mohsin Ali, MP (3rd from right)

Among 30 national development experts attended the plenary and parallel sessions, including Ms. Anna Lexi, EU Representative; Mr. Sarat Dash, Head of Mission, IOM; Michael McGrath, Country Director, Save the Children; Professor Ishrat Shamim, President, Centre for Women and Children Studies; Ms. Peppi Siddiq, IOM; Kazi Abul Kalam, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment; Selina Ahmed, Executive Director, Acid Survivors Foundation;  and Kazi Reazul Hoque, full time Member of the National Human Rights Commission. They gave their opinions on how to reduce unsafe migration of children and how we can move towards a better Bangladesh where children can migrate safely.

‘We tend to ignore children when we talk about the impact of migration whereas children’s situation becomes more vulnerable due to unsafe migration. Thus, we need to include them in migration research’, said Michael McGrath. Professor Sayed Mokaddem Hossain of the University of Dhaka, expressed the hope that the ‘nationwide activation of the piloted registration system by Save the Children’s LINK project can be an appropriate option of reducing the risk of children’s unsafe migration’. Most importantly, the convention ended with a formal Declaration by the Executive Directors of BNWLA and UDDIPAN indicating a clear pathway to reduce the harmful impact of unsafe migration on children. The organizing members agreed to continue their collaborative efforts through this platform in future.