Ramjan Sheikh, a 45-year-old from Sirajdikhan Upazila in Munshiganj District, returned from Greece in 2015. Ramjan is the eighth child in his twelve member family. Prior to Ramjan leaving for Europe, his father was the only one employed in the family. 

Ramjan could not afford go to college after finishing his higher secondary education. He hoped to get a job to support his family but could not secure one after over a year of searching. In desperation, and at the encouragement of his friends, he decided to leave the country to try to earn a living for his family. He started searching for ways to go abroad and found a middleman in his village who promised to provide a good job in Greece with a handsome salary. The middleman convinced Ramjan to migrate to Greece in exchange for BDT 700,000 (EUR 7,300).

In late 2005, Ramjan Sheikh started his journey by air from Dhaka to Greece. Once he arrived, he managed to get a job at a restaurant. During his stay in Greece, he earned about BDT 150,000 (EUR 1,580) per year. 

Around the beginning of  2012, he increasingly started to face challenges remaining in Greece with the Greek Government was cracking down on people in the country without proper documents. Every day he worried about getting arrested. As a result of his fear, Ramjan would not leave the house unless he was going to work. In fact, because of his immigration status, the restaurant he worked in let him go. He tried to find another job, but no one was willing to hire an irregular migrant.

Finally, Ramjan returned to Bangladesh in May 2015. Upon return he became even more frustrated and depressed, seeing the limited job opportunities in Bangladesh. He got married which also raised his levels of anxiety about not being able to look after his new wife and family.

Just as he had done in Greece a few years earlier, Ramjan continued staying at home most of the time. In 2019, he happened to watch a ‘Video Show’ put on by the Prottasha project at Chhoto Pawldia Union Parishad in Sirajdikhan Upazila. After watching the video show, he was motivated to reach out to  the para-counselor and learn more about the Prottasha project. The para-counsellor connected him with the field organizer in Sirajdikhan Upazilla who then referred him to the Reintegration Service Centre (RSC) in Munshiganj District. RSC staff assessed his profile and developed a tailored reintegration plan with him.

Initially, Ramjan attended a few counselling sessions to address his anxiety. This helped him immensely in turning his life around. To support this, RSC staff helped Ramjan develop a business plan.

Ramjan Sheikh has also received entrepreneurship training from Prottasha. He learned some critical business skills, including sales, investment, marketing and financial management. Ramjan decided to start a small sheep rearing business. With support from the project, he bought nine lambs for BDT 70,000 (EUR 739) He plan to expand his business of animal rearing for meat.

The project’s various interventions have been key to Ramjan Sheikh making changes in his life. He now earns an average of BDT 18,000 (EUR 190) per month.  

Ramjan was subsequently included in the project’s Business Advisory Committee. He has also been a member of the Migration Forum in Serajdhikhan Upazila.

He now gives back to the community and advises aspirant wherever possible, advising them on the regular pathways to migration and the downside of migrating irregularly. 

He expressed his thanks to Prottasha, saying,

When there was no one to help me, the Prottasha project stood by me and offered great support. I am now happily earning and living with my family. I cannot express my gratitude for this project enough.

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

SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities