What do people think of Indian immigrants

Country Profiles Migration: Data - History - Politics

Benjamin Etzold

Dr. Benjamin Etzold is a research associate at the Geographical Institute of the University of Bonn. He did his PhD on street trade in the megacity of Dhaka and was involved in a research project on climate change, hunger and migration in Bangladesh. His main research interests include geographic migration and development research with a focus on social vulnerability and working conditions. Email: [email protected]

Bishawjit Mallick

Dr. Bishawjit Mallick is a research associate at the Institute for Regional Science at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). As part of his doctorate, he examined the societal handling of climate risks in Bangladesh's coastal areas. He is currently working on risk-oriented spatial planning and climate-related migration processes in Bangladesh. Email: [email protected]

The history of Bangladesh is also a history of migration. People in the region on the Bay of Bengal have been mobile for centuries. The cornerstone of today's pattern of temporary labor migration was laid during the colonial era. Every year around 500,000 people leave the country to work abroad. The Bangladesh economy depends on remittances from these migrant workers.

Bangladeshi migrant workers arrive at the international airport of the capital Dhaka after long stays abroad with lots of presents in their luggage. (& copy Benjamin Etzold)

Labor migration

After the Second World War, the United Kingdom experienced a labor shortage and the country began to recruit migrant workers from Commonwealth countries. Young men from Bangladesh, particularly from the Sylhet region, went to the United Kingdom, particularly London, to meet the demand for cheap labor. This set in motion chain migrations: more workers and family members followed them in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, which in turn helped establish transnational ties between Bangladesh and the United Kingdom [1]. The officially registered number of people from - at the time still - East Pakistan who migrated abroad was still rather small. It was only after independence in 1971 and the 1973 oil boom and the associated demand for cheap labor in the Middle East that labor migration from Bangladesh increased significantly (see Figure 1). Whereas in 1976 only 6,000 Bangladeshis left the country to work abroad, the number of both temporary labor migrants and permanent emigrants has increased dramatically since then. Between 1990 and 1995, 1.2 million people left Bangladesh to live and work in another country. Churn increased to nearly three million between 2005 and 2010. In 2008 alone, 875,000 migrant workers were recruited from Bangladesh [2].

According to the National Population and Household Census, 2.8 million members of Bangladeshi households lived abroad in 2011. 95 percent of them were men. The fact that emigrants are still viewed as "household members" rather than "emigrants" indicates the limited duration of labor migrations. The census shows that between 2006 and 2011, 3.5 million people left Bangladesh; more than 500,000 migrant workers returned there in the same period [3]. In 2014, 426,000 people left the country to work abroad - mostly on fixed-term contracts.

The member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are the main destination countries for workers from Bangladesh. Between 1980 and 2010, the number of migrants who left the country for the Gulf States each year increased tenfold from 25,000 to 250,000 [4]. Between 2005 and 2010 alone, 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers migrated to the Gulf States, that is 52 percent of all international migrations from Bangladesh. Most of this workforce went to the United Arab Emirates (647,000), Saudi Arabia (523,000) and Qatar (154,000) (see Figure 2). Since the United Arab Emirates introduced further restrictions on male labor migrants, the number of male migrant workers from Bangladesh has declined significantly, while the number of female migrant workers from Bangladesh in the United Arab Emirates has quadrupled. In recent years, both male and female labor migration to Oman and Qatar has increased. In 2014, these two countries were the most important destination countries for migrant workers from Bangladesh.

Other important destination countries besides the Gulf States are Malaysia with 198,000 immigrants, the USA with more than 128,000 immigrants and - still - the United Kingdom with 160,000 new immigrants from Bangladesh between 2005 and 2010. 631,000 Bangladeshi nationals were registered in India during the same period. Many more pass undocumented the 4,000-kilometer border between India and Bangladesh, which is difficult to control. The same goes in reverse for Indian nationals. Conflicts over "illegal migration", the militarization of the border - India has erected a barbed wire fence over two thirds of the border - and the increasing number of Bengali-speaking Muslims in the Indian states of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura are the subject of political tensions between the two states . A total of around 3.2 million people of Bangladeshi origin lived in India in 2013 (see Table 2).

In the past five years, an increasing number of workers have left Bangladesh to work in Singapore's construction industry. In 2014, Singapore was the third most important destination for migrant workers with short-term contracts. In contrast, since the war in 2011, Libya has lost importance among workers from Bangladesh. Instead, Lebanon, Jordan and Mauritius have become increasingly important destination countries, especially for female migrants who work there as domestic servants and cleaners. In addition to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, these three countries are examples of the growing importance of female labor migration. The share of women in labor migration from Bangladesh increased from 1 percent in 1994 to 18 percent in 2014 (see Table 1) [5].

Figure 1: Annual emigration of labor migrants from Bangladesh between 1976 and 2014 according to qualification level License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (bpb)