Bangladesh expat worker numbers at record high

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DHAKA, Oct 19 (Reuters) The number of Bangladeshis leaving home for overseas jobs is at a record high this year, despite Malaysia recently banning entry of Bangladeshi workers, the government said today.

A total of 428,000 workers had left Bangladesh as of October 17 and more than 200,000 others were awaiting to depart before end of the year, the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry said.

Some 384,000 Bangladeshis went abroad on jobs in 2006, the government said.

Around five million Bangladeshis working abroad sent home nearly 6 billion dollars in the year to June 2007, providing a key lifeline to the country's poor economy. Repatriated funds are second only to garments in the country's export earnings.

Officials said many of around 15,000 Bangladeshis booked for jobs in Malaysia had either come back after being stranded at Malaysian airports or had not flown out after the ban was imposed earlier this month.

Bangladesh's army-backed interim government is negotiating to overcome the deadlock with Kuala Lumpur, which said it imposed the ban because there were too many problems involved in hiring Bangladeshi workers.

Dhaka hopes its foreign-based workers might get a boost in Europe where ageing local workers need to be replaced with expatriates.

''We are exploring that opportunity and may send more Bangladeshis to fill up the gaps in Europe,'' said one official, who asked not to be named.

REUTERS SYU VC1410

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