Why is Bangladesh more developed than Malaysia

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]

Bangladesh has a long tradition of posting migrant workers abroad. There are numerous laws and institutions that are designed to control this migration and protect the rights of Bangladeshi migrant workers. In contrast, immigration has hardly played a role so far.

Many Bangladeshis regularly commute between their home village in rural areas and the megacity of Dhaka. Most of the routes are covered by buses. (& copy Benjamin Etzold)

Compared to the importance attached to the international migration of migrant workers from Bangladesh for the country's economy and long-term development strategy, immigration and refugee protection are not a political priority. Since the 1960s, Bangladesh has consistently recorded negative net migration - the number of emigrants has always exceeded that of immigrants [1]. In 2013, around 1.4 million foreign nationals lived in Bangladesh, making up only 0.9 percent of the total population. Malaysia, Myanmar, China, Indonesia and Laos are the five main countries of origin (see Table 5). The immigration statistics do not provide any information on whether, for example, the approximately 45,000 Americans living in Bangladesh are expatriates who work in the fields of development, science, technology or the clothing industry, or whether they are former emigrants from Bangladesh who Accepted US citizenship and then returned to Bangladesh. The government of Bangladesh has issued visa regulations for tourists and foreign workers, but has not yet defined an explicit immigration policy.

The problems of two minority groups in Bangladesh need to be mentioned. For one thing, there is Biharis, Urdu-speaking Muslims who migrated from the Hindu-dominated Indian state of Bihar to what was then East Pakistan at the time of the partition of India in 1947. In the civil war in Bangladesh they fought on the side of the troops of West Pakistan. After Bangladesh gained independence in 1971, they stayed in the newly founded country, but nevertheless opted for Pakistani citizenship. They were housed in numerous refugee camps across the country and have since been excluded from society and from access to social services and the education system. In 2008 the 250,000 Bihariswho live scattered across the national territory of Bangladesh have issued identity papers allowing them to vote in the elections. However, some of them are still not recognized as full Bangladeshi nationals. Many of them see themselves as "stranded" or stateless people [2].

On the other hand, there is Rohingyawho have always lived in the border region between Bangladesh and Myanmar. In Myanmar, they are considered a minority Bengali-speaking Muslims. They do not have full civil rights and are exposed to repressive state acts, political harassment and social exclusion. Around 200,000 fled in 1978 and another 250,000 in 1991/92 Rohingya to Bangladesh, which never signed the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention. The support the refugees in Bangladesh received was minimal. The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) set up some refugee camps in the Cox Bazar district that still exist today and house around 2,600 people. In the mid-1990s, around 236,000 refugees were sent back to Myanmar; most of them returned to Bangladesh "illegally" shortly afterwards. A total of around 200,000 refugees and undocumented migrants from Myanmar live in Bangladesh today (see Table 5). Both recognized refugees and Rohingyawho have settled in Bangladesh on their own initiative face economic exploitation, political repression and social exclusion. Between 2012 and 2014, the number of migrants and refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh attempting to reach Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia by boat tripled; it rose from 20,000 to 63,000. In May 2015, tens of thousands of these "irregular" migrants were stranded in the border area between Thailand and Malaysia or floated in boats on the Andaman Sea for weeks. In addition to the ongoing violence against this Muslim minority in Myanmar, this humanitarian crisis can also be partly due to the hostile attitude of Bangladesh towards the Rohingya- Refugees are declared [3].

This text is part of the country profile for Bangladesh.