Jhe world continues to witness changes in important aspects of people’s lives since being affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many countries, both developed and underdeveloped, have seen mass layoffs as the public and private sectors face unprecedented disruption. Supply disruptions affected growth momentum.
The reintegration of returning migrants into the social and economic structures of their country of origin is one of the important issues of our time.
This is a crucial aspect of the labor migration process that requires supervision and a systematic approach from the respective governments. Most migrants resided and worked legally in foreign countries. Some were naturalized citizens or asylum seekers.
Whatever category they may belong to, upon their return to their country of origin, they need guidance, counselling, training and supervision to become an effective part of society.
Returning emigrants can benefit from investment opportunities in export processing zones. The government should consider providing tax incentives such as tax holidays/reliefs, etc. to those who intend to set up businesses in Pakistan.
More targeted efforts are needed to increase the flow of remittances through formal channels and fully exploit their development potential. To get the most out of remittances, Pakistan needs to provide a conducive economic environment through sound macroeconomic policies, including stable exchange rates, basic physical infrastructure, better market integration, reliable financial and other institutions. , a transparent legal system and good governance. These are the conditions that can prepare the economy for development and equip it to take advantage of this opportunity.
The government’s decision to establish an organization to prioritize requests and complaints from Pakistanis returning abroad is a positive step. It plans to set up a reintegration center as a pilot project. The center will be managed by the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation (OPF).
He will serve as a focal point to answer all questions about reintegration in Pakistan. It will also serve as a one-stop solution for information on investment, project feasibility, payment of unpaid dues by foreign employers, and re-employment options. Returning migrants will receive information and advice on a variety of topics, including overseas employment, migrant rights and protection, skills development and vocational training programs in Pakistan as well as re-employment , abroad and in Pakistan.
The reintegration center will also provide assistance in starting new businesses, obtaining micro-credits and buying land in economic zones.
In 2020, the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development (MOPHRD) finalized a National Emigration and Welfare Policy for Overseas Pakistanis with technical and expert support from the Center International Migration Policy Development Agency (ICMPD) for the facilitation of Overseas Pakistanis. However, there is still much to do.
The European Return and Reintegration Network (ERRIN) is an initiative of 16 European states that helps ensure that migrants can return home to Pakistan and other countries in a dignified and humane way. ERRIN works with local organizations in 40 countries, offering comprehensive assistance to returning migrants.
In Pakistan, the local partner is WELDO, a non-profit organization active since 2003. WELDO has worked with over 900 national and international partners on a wide range of projects. It started working on return and reintegration in 2010. Since then it has provided support to over 7,000 people. Following the initial assistance, provided on arrival, reintegration assistance may consist of assistance with housing, medical care, vocational training and educational needs, or setting up a business.
IRARA is another global team of humanitarian and migration specialists operating in over 20 countries. He works with people who return to their countries of origin to help them rebuild their lives within their communities.
In Pakistan, IRARA plans to provide a training platform through the IRARA Livelihood Hub where returning migrants learn new skills or update existing skills. This skilled labor can benefit both domestic and international labor markets.
Only a small percentage of the Pakistani population acquires the skills necessary to become employable. This can lead to poverty. On the other hand, private sector employers struggle to access the skilled labor they need, which limits the country’s economic growth.
In Lahore, a German-Pakistani Facilitation and Reintegration Center (PGFRC) has recently started its activities. It has a consultancy office in Islamabad. The PGFRC was founded by the German development agency, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in collaboration with the Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis and Human Resource Development, and the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation. Sea (OPF), with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation. and development (BMZ). PGFRC supports and assists returning migrants and the local population in their social and economic reintegration.
The recently launched Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) Sector Support Program initiative, Reintegration of Returnees in Pakistan (RoR), provides reintegration assistance to returning citizens, particularly young adults. Commissioned by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the reintegration of returnees to Pakistan is implemented by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH in conjunction with the National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) under the aegis of the TVET Sector Support Programme.
This initiative assists both returning foreign workers and other citizens by providing career and entrepreneurship counselling, skills-based training and assessments, recognition of prior learning certificates, and promotion of employment. Assistance measures are mainly taken in Punjab, the province most affected by return migration. The initiative aims to help 15,000 people, including 6,500 returning from Germany and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.
The Career and Entrepreneurship Counseling Services under the Reintegration of Returnees in Pakistan (RoR) is a support measure that assists 6,000 people, including 3,000 returning workers, by providing them with counseling services in careers and entrepreneurship for employment opportunities in different economic sectors and linking them to micro-financing. institutions for viable start-up and expansion opportunities.
As part of the recognition of acquired experience (RPL), 2,000 people, including 1,000 returnees, are supported. The approach recognizes and certifies the skills and abilities of workers who have been active in the informal labor market. It allows skilled workers to have access to better learning and employment opportunities.
Another support measure is helping 3,000 people, including 500 returnees, to pass Competency-Based Training and Assessments (CBT&A) through implementing partners in Punjab.
The fourth aspect is the promotion of employment. It helps 4,000 people, including 2,000 returning workers, by creating pathways to self-employment and dependent employment opportunities. This includes entrepreneurship training followed by in-kind support for small start-ups.
These initiatives are a beacon of hope for returning Pakistani migrants, but given the enormity of the problem, much more needs to be done in this regard. Psychological counseling sessions are also needed for returning workers, as the sudden loss of overseas employment and family pressure to become economically productive can be quite traumatic.
The author is a top reporter based in Islamabad