Distribution of tokens remained suspended for a while because of the protest
- Protests continued Sunday
- Protesters broke the Sonargaon hotel gate
- They demanded tickets be issued according to the expiry dates of their visas, Iqamas
- Police charged batons to control the situation
Hundreds of stranded Saudi Arabia returnees demonstrated again Sunday in front of the Saudi Arabian Airlines office at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Dhaka Hotel in the capital demanding tokens and flight tickets.
At one stage, they broke the hotel's main gate.
Md Ashik, a Saudi returnee from Naogaon, told The Business Standard, "The airline authorities announced earlier that they would distribute tokens today but did not keep their word. That is why we gathered here in the morning, broke the main gate, and finally took up positions on the hotel premises."
Police charged batons on some protesters to bring the situation under control, UNB reported.
Witnesses said several migrants gathered in front of the airline's office early Sunday. Then, a huge number of migrants started to rush in around 9:30am.
Later, police charged batons to disperse them, leaving some protesters injured.
Abdur Rashid, officer-in-charge of Hatirjheel Police Station, said additional policemen had been deployed in the area to avert further trouble, UNB reported.
The distribution of tokens remained suspended for a while because of the protest. Later, the authorities resumed distributing tokens in the afternoon.
The airline authority announced around 1:30pm that it would distribute 1,500 tokens according to the expiry dates of visas.
Earlier, they had announced that they would distribute tokens from Sunday morning. That is why many migrants started gathering outside Sonargaon hotel Saturday night.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) said in a press release Sunday it had relaxed the restrictions on the number of Saudi-bound passengers on each flight until October 24.
The decision would be applicable to flights of Biman Bangladesh Airlines and Saudi Arabian Airlines.
Wide-body aircraft were earlier restricted to carrying 260 passengers while the number was 140 for narrow-body airplanes.
CAAB said the restrictions were withdrawn considering the plight of the stranded returnees waiting to fly back to Saudi Arabia.
It also said it would take necessary steps to reduce potential health risks caused by the withdrawal of the restrictions.
Bangladeshi migrants who work in Saudi Arabia have been eagerly waiting to return as the Middle Eastern country has eased novel coronavirus restrictions.
When they came back to Bangladesh, they had return tickets, but they could not go back to Saudi Arabia due to a shortage of flights amid the pandemic.
The Saudi returnees have been demonstrating since September 16 to have their return tickets reissued. In the meantime, many of their visas have already expired.
The stranded returnees demanded that tickets be given according to the expiry dates of their visas and Iqamas (work permits).
Those who had earlier bought return tickets but could not fly back are having their tickets reissued now.
Of the migrants who already have return tickets, those who are coming to the airline's office early in the day are getting tokens. That is why many returnees, whose visas and Iqamas are going to expire soon, are not getting tickets.
They claimed the airline had distributed tokens on a first come, first served basis, and that is why passengers requiring to return on an urgent basis were not getting tickets.
Meanwhile, the returnees whose visas have expired recently are still in uncertainty.
Many of them claimed that they could not manage the required documents from their employers to extend the validity of the re-entry visas.
Over one lakh Bangladeshi migrants who came back on holiday have been stranded in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies said around 80% of them work in Saudi Arabia.
The validity of many Saudi returnees' visas expired on September 30.
According to Dhaka airport data, only 3,318 workers have reached Saudi Arabia till Wednesday (September 30) since flights resumed on September 23.