Bangladesh Gov’t to Hold Jobs Fair for Cox’s Bazar Youth Following Protests

By Muktadir Rashid   19 April 2019

DHAKA—Bangladesh will hold the first-ever employment skills fair in Cox’s Bazar district on May 4 following recent protests by host community youths demanding better access to jobs with the many non-government organizations providing relief to Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Ukhia and Tekhnaf sub-districts.

District administration officials believe the job fair, at which the NGOs will offer job-seeking youth technical assistance, will create awareness among the job seekers and help them to compete in local job markets, which have reportedly begun to shrink in response to a funding crunch.

Cox’s Bazar district deputy commissioner Kamal Hossain said that the day-long  “employment skills fair” would be held in Ukhia sub-district, with local and international NGOs and UN agencies setting up stalls.

According to the district administration, the Cox’s Bazar-based Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), which led the coordination of the humanitarian response to the influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar on behalf of the International Organization for Migration and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, will provide technical assistance.

The ICSG’s national coordination officer, Saikat Biswas, said the employment skills fair would create opportunities for local job seekers, helping them to develop their CVs and post them online.

Jobseekers who register at the fair will receive automatic alerts when employment opportunities appropriate to their skill sets arise.

According to the office of the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commission in Cox’s Bazar, over 17,000 people are working for more than 120 local and international NGOs and UN agencies in jobs related to the Rohingya crisis.

While there is no available data on how many employment opportunities currently exist in Cox’s Bazar, various groups have in recent months mobilized local youths to protest alleged job discrimination and termination by the NGOs.

At the end of January, Adhikar Bastabayan Committee Ukhiya, which bills itself as a rights-implementation committee, organized hundreds of local job seekers in Cox’s Bazar’s Ukhiya demanding employment by local and international charities working in the district’s Rohingya camps. Their 14-point list of demands, issued to the local administration, included taking steps to halt “planned” job cuts within the host community by the NGOs.

Committee leader Imrul Kayes Chowdhury, also a local correspondent for Jamuna television, said the decision to hold the jobs fair was the result of their activities over the past few months.

Imrul Kayes alleged that over 2,500 people were fired from different local and international NGOs in the name of job cuts, when in fact they were let go to make room for more internal hiring.

“We want accountability and transparency in employment,” he said.

He accused the NGOs of nepotism and said hardly any locals were getting senior-level job opportunities.

“Employers are providing jobs to their relatives, compromising equality in the employment process, which made us angry. Finally, we took to the streets,” Imrul told The Irrawaddy.

He also said locals were going without jobs while outsiders were being employed.

The campaigners said 70 per cent of total employment in Rohingya response activities should be from the host community, and called for a reduction of the salary disparity between local and international employees.

Following the protests, the Cox’s Bazar-based Rohingya response NGO Platform on Feb. 3 issued a statement saying it had conducted a survey of 102 local and international NGOs that employed 17,275 people in various posts.

Sixty-six percent of the employees were from Cox’s Bazar while 34 percent were from elsewhere, but only 2.4 per cent were foreigners.

A number of senior and mid-ranking NGO workers said that a few people were using the jobs campaign for their own ends, and in many cases were pushing for the reinstatement of locals who had been fired for failing to perform their duties or after being disqualified.

Many NGO officials were unwilling to comment formally because they wanted to avoid further escalation of the tension, but said the so-called movement really aimed to drive a wedge between the host community and Rohingya refugees. They accused the campaigners of spreading hate-speech on social media.

Imrul said the campaign sought only to create awareness among the host community. His critics however, told The Irrawaddy he wanted to exploit the movement for his own political purposes.

The Cox’s Bazar deputy commissioner said he hoped that the jobs fair would ease concerns among the local job seekers, as it would include a technical workshop and would also try to recruit people on the spot, if suitably qualified candidates were found.