Many expatriates cannot go to their destination countries following flight suspensions from Bangladesh
Md Sohel Mia from Gafargaon upazila of Mymensingh was scheduled to fly to Kuwait on a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight on the 14th of this month.
He has spent Tk7 lakh to complete all procedures required to start his first job abroad.
However, Sohel cannot return to his destination country in time as the Kuwaiti authorities have suspended all flights to and from Bangladesh and other six countries from March 7.
"The validity of my Kuwaiti visa is three months, which will expire on March 16. I do not know what will happen if I cannot go there in time," said Sohel Mia.
"I will meet the owner of the recruiting agency within two days", he added. Local recruiting agency SB International is dealing with Sohel's job.
However, the Kuwaiti government declared later yesterday that migrant workers from Bangladesh and 16 other countries would be allowed into the country once flights resumed, even if their permits or visas expired.
Many other expatriate workers like Sohel also cannot go to their destination countries following flight suspensions from Bangladesh amid a growing concern over the coronavirus.
Qatar and Maldives yesterday banned arrival from Bangladesh after the country on Sunday confirmed its first three coronavirus cases.
In the wake of such bans, Biman Bangladesh Airlines has had to suspend 74 flights out of 142 on 10 routes, including some Middle Eastern countries, India, Malaysia and Singapore.
The routes are: Dhaka to Kuala Lumpur, Dhaka to Kathmandu, Dhaka to Kolkata, Dhaka to Delhi, Dhaka to Bangkok, Dhaka to Singapore, Dhaka to Kuwait, Dhaka to Doha, Dhaka to Jeddah and Dhaka to Madinah.
"We have cancelled five flights from Dhaka to Doha till March 16. A total of 998 people were scheduled to go to the country on these flights," said Nurul Amin, acting station manager of Biman Bangladesh Airlines at Shahjalal International Airport.
He also said around 650 passengers were scheduled to go to Kuwait in the next five days through their airlines.
"But these flights have been cancelled amid the current situation," he added.
Manpower recruiting agencies are also worried about their business as only a few countries are allowing Bangladeshis to enter their lands.
"130 workers are scheduled to go to Kuwait through my recruiting agency within the next one month. Their journeys have become uncertain after the Kuwait authorities imposed the ban," said Kamal Sikder, managing partner of SB International.
"Around 1,000 workers who have come to Bangladesh to enjoy their vacation are waiting to return to Kuwait. But now they are in fear about their timely arrival at the destination country," he added.
According to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), around 1 lakh visas of Bangladeshi workers are now pending in different Middle Eastern countries, including Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
"We don't know what is waiting for this large number of workers," said Kafil Uddin Majumder, proprietor of Freedom Overseas and also a leader of Baira.
"We are also in fear that our business would be hampered if they can't go in time," he added.
Sazzad Hossain, Proprietor of Arman Air International and joint secretary of Baira told The Business Standard that the duration of Saudi and Kuwaiti visas is three months, while that of Qatar is two months.
A worker must go to the destination country within the specified timeframe.
"If a worker can't return to his destination country in time, he will suffer a minimum financial loss of Tk3 lakh," said Sazzad Hossain.
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary-general of Baira, said, "70 percent of our migrant workers' destination is Saudi Arabia. Although the country did not impose a travel ban on Bangladesh, the situation would clear within the next two weeks."