They said they were worried about tickets as the number of passengers exceeded the availability of flights
- Many do not have clear ideas about visa renewal
- They were asked to manage a confirmation from employers about leave extension, which they said was difficult
- They blamed authorities for providing inadequate information
- Many faced trouble collecting tickets
The problems of the Saudi Arabia returnees are yet to be resolved as many of them with expired visas are not clear about the renewal process.
They do not know for sure when tokens will be distributed for the collection of their flight tickets; also, getting a confirmation from their employer about extension of leave has become a source of trouble.
Faced with these multiple challenges since September 15, hundreds of Saudi returnees continued demonstrations on Monday in front of the Dhaka office of Saudia, the national flag carrier of the Middle Eastern country.
Many came to collect tickets, while others came with the hope of receiving tokens. They blocked the Karwan Bazar intersection at 2:30pm for around two hours, which led to heavy traffic congestion.
Later, Hatirjheel police convinced them to stop the protest and removed them from the road.
Khandakar Selim Shahriar, sub-inspector and duty officer of Hatirjheel Police Station, said the demonstration resulted in a chaotic situation.
The returnees said they were worried about tickets as the number of passengers far exceeded the number of flights available.
According to Saudia's schedule, only those carrying tokens with numbers from 1900 to 2300 were issued tickets on Monday.
However, those with token numbers 3000 and above also crowded the airline's office since the morning for tickets.
Talking to The Business Standard outside Sonargaon hotel, Faisal Hossain, a Saudi returnee who hails from Feni, said, "My visa will expire on the last day of this month, but the airline has still not reissued my return ticket. My token number is 2400 and I got it on September 21."
"I am worried about getting my ticket. The airline authority is saying that I have to manage a written confirmation from my employer regarding extension of my leave. But it is difficult to contact my employer from here," he explained.
"What the airline is demanding is irrational. Besides, all the procedures and systems to get a ticket, renew the visa and the Iqama (residence permit) are very unclear to us," added Faisal.
The visa of Md Shamim, a migrant from Gazipur, expired on June 22 this year.
He said, "I've had to go to Biman Bangladesh Airlines office in Motijheel for the last two days. Later, I was informed that the returnees whose visas had expired would not get tickets. If we had got the right information at the right time, many of us would not have crowded the office there."
Shamim said many of the returnees do not know how to renew visas.
"They went to the Saudi Arabian embassy and the authorities concerned said their visas had to be renewed by 32 authorised visa processing agencies," he added.
Some returnees claimed that they were not getting tickets as per the tokens they had received.
Md Zaman said he had received the token on September 21 but had yet to get his ticket.
Kafil Uddin Mazumder, general secretary of Saudi Visa Service Centre Owners Association, said, "For reentry visa extension, a worker needs a letter from his employer about extension of leave attested by the Saudi foreign ministry, a photocopy of valid Iqama, and another letter from the General Directorate of Passports."
"All these documents will be provided by the employers to the returnees and they will then have to submit visa processing forms."
"However, since these returnees are now in Bangladesh, it is difficult for them to manage all these documents from their employers. So, our foreign ministry should talk to the Saudi Arabian authorities to relax the process," he added.
More than one lakh Bangladeshi migrants got stranded in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic when they returned home on leave.
Around 80% of these returnees are from Saudi Arabia, according to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies.
Following a request from the Foreign Ministry of Bangladesh, the Saudi Arabian authorities have extended the validity of Iqamas of stranded Bangladeshi migrants by 24 days, starting from October 1.
However, many migrants said the extension was not enough to process all the documents for visa renewal.