Migrants' cash goes to home countries

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The Morecambe Bay tragedy should not obscure the huge economic benefits to poorer countries of emigration, MPs were told by an expatriate group yesterday.

The British Bangladeshi International Development Group said that curry house workers and other immigrants sent twice as much money to Bangladesh as the British government sends the country in international aid every year.

The group pointed out that that the £150m channelled back officially to Bangladesh was a tiny percentage of the £50bn sent home annually by migrant workers in the UK. Cash from illegal immigrants probably dwarfed even this figure.

In its evidence to the International Development Select Committee's inquiry into migration, the group argued that migrant labour helped both the host economies and the developing world from which they came.

It said that the migrant communities of the UK should be included in government policy-making debates on international development of their native countries.

In 2002, 120,000 work permits were issued to foreign nationals and many more are expected to be issued next year to ease a skills shortage.

Murad Qureshi, of the Bangladeshi group, said that the Morecambe Bay deaths proved how desperate some immigrants were to earn money that could be sent back home.

He said migrant' efforts should be recognised. "More needs to be done to harness what government policy overlooks, and to support and channel the privately remitted funds to Bangladesh, which many migrant communities see as a necessary responsibility to their countries and countrymen."