Saudia airlines has started distributing tickets to those whose visa tenure will expire in the next few days
- Recruiting agencies said the move has come too late
- Saudi returnees with short-term visa expiry dates are getting tickets
- Dhaka seeks Seoul's cooperation for the return of stranded workers, students
Finally, the government has taken initiative to make a list of the stranded migrant workers of Bangladesh, after over two weeks of demonstrations by returnees over visa extensions and air tickets.
The move has been taken over six months; after repeated requests by specialists and manpower recruiting agencies were made soon after the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, so that migrant workers' problems could be easily resolved.
Through inter-ministerial coordination, various initiatives have been undertaken to extend the visas/Iqamas of workers wishing to return abroad and to increase the number of flights, according to a press release issued yesterday.
The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment has taken initiative to register all such workers in an aim to ensure effective diplomatic efforts to assist the returnees and stranded workers and make future plans about these issues, it added.
The ministry has requested the migrant workers wishing to return abroad to register online, free of charge, immediately through the following link: www.old.bmet.gov.bd/BMET/returnMigrant.
The migrant workers can contact the nearest district employment and manpower office in this regard, the release said, adding the registration will be used only for informational and other supportive activities and does not guarantee repatriation or re-employment.
However, the recruiting agency leaders and migration specialists said although the expat ministry has taken a decision in this regard, it is already too late.
"We urged the ministry to make a database of migrant returnees in March after Covid-19 hit the country. But they have taken the initiative just now. It will help to solve the current crisis," said Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh International Recruiting Agencies (Baira).
He said that they have a meeting with the ministry today on the overall migrant issue.
"Another meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment ministry will be held on Thursday. Baira representatives will also participate in the meeting," he added.
Many stranded Saudi returnees lost their visa validity on September 30, and they have been struggling to extend their re-entry visas as the Saudi authority has imposed some fresh conditions to complete the process.
They claimed they need some documents from employers attested by the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry to increase the re-entry visa validity – which is quite tough to manage from the home country.
Over one lakh Bangladeshi migrants have been stranded in the country due to flight suspensions amid the pandemic, around 80% of whom are Saudi-bound workers, according to the Baira.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen sought cooperation from his South Korean counterpart, Kang Kyung-wha, to ease the visa process so that the workers and students, who came back to Bangladesh at the beginning of the pandemic, could return to their work and studies.
The Bangladesh foreign minister was talking to his Korean counterpart over the phone yesterday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Saudia airlines has started distributing tickets by classifying stranded workers in different categories.
Those, who are going to lose their visa validities in the next three days, can go directly to the airlines' counter to collect tickets even if they do not have a token.
Crowds in front of the Saudia Airlines' ticket counter at Sonargaon Hotel in Dhaka's Karwan Bazar have reduced since Monday morning after the new system was introduced.
Around 300 returnees received tickets on Tuesday from Saudia airlines. The expats, whose visas have the validity of just a few days, received the tickets.
Meanwhile, the founder and trustee of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, Dr Jafrullah, called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, at a discussion, to go to Saudi Arabia and directly talk to the Saudi king about resolving the issues of migrant workers.