Bodrul Alam (40), from Majercoti village in Kanaighat, sub-district of Sylhet, had led a modest life with his wife and three children, with whom he ran a small grocery shop. He dreamt of earning more money and being able to provide a better future for his family.  

He had heard various stories from the people who came to his shop about those who had migrated to the  United Kingdom and were earning well. Ha had subsequently mentioned these stories to a close friend who immediately expressed his willingness to support him. Bodrul's friend assured him that he could provide the necessary documents to migrate to the UK legally. While at first he was not sure, Bodrul was eventually swayed by his friend and decided to move to the UK in an attempt to provide a better life for his family. 

Bodrul Alam handed over the cheque to buy rice from the wholesale market. © Prottasha 2021

Bodrul spent BDT 700,000 (EUR 7,000) which he raised through selling his land, borrowing from family, and obtaining a high-interest loan. In March 2011, Bodrul embarked on his journey to the UK via Dubai on a student visa.

Life in the UK was not good for Bodrul. His student visa was soon invalidated when it  became clear to the authorities that he was in the UK on false pretense. In a vain attempt to stay in the country Bodrul applied for asylum, but this was soon denied as he did not meet the minimum criteria. He sunk into irregular status in the UK, and because of this it was not easy for him to find work at all, let alone well-paid work.  Six years passed while he barely managed to get by hide from the authorities. He certainly never earned enough to send money home to his family. Finally, he swallowed his pride and decided to return to Bangladesh. In June 2017 he returned to Bangladesh empty-handed.

Once home, Bodrul again faced significant obstacles. He was unemployed and the family's financial difficulties led to anxiety and depression. This caused him to start drinking, which only added to his mental problems.

"I encountered numerous challenges while living and working in London and later upon my return to my country," he explained.

In 2021, he heard about the Prottasha project through Md. Sharifuddin, another returnees from Majercoti who had also benefited from the project. He visited Sylhet's Reintegration Service Centre (RSC) and spoke to project staff there. Prottasha staff in Sylhet initiated the screening and profiling process for Bodrul. From there they helped him develop a tailored reintegration plan – focused on addressing his mental issues and supporting him to grow his business.

He received a series of counselling sessions to address his psychological problems. In addition, the Prottasha project provided him with various types of rice  which he was able to use to expand his grocery business. 

Bodrul Alam now enjoys a comfortable life; earning around BDT 27,000 (EUR 275) a month. He has regained a sense of confidence and is optimistic that he will be able to provide a better future for his children while working on expanding his business in Majercoti. 

He is grateful to IOM and the Prottasha project, saying "It was challenging to settle down when I first arrived home, but the Prottasha project assisted me to reintegrate. Without this assistance, I would not have had the courage to expand my business. I would like to express my heartfelt appreciation to the Prottasha project.”

Bodrul Alam and his eldest daughter also received financial literacy and remittance management training from the project. 

To aspirant migrants, Badrul Alam wishes to convey the following message: "If you are determined to migrate, it is best to gain all necessary information before leaving. Before making any commitments or transferring funds to anyone, please make sure you have accurate and complete information about your destination country, work permit, and visa processing," he added.

The story is written by Md Sariful Islam, National Communications Officer, IOM Bangladesh.

SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities