Stranded expatriates in Bangladesh demand auto renewal of Saudi visa, continue demonstration
The re-entry visas of hundreds of Saudi Arabia-bound Bangladeshi workers who have been stranded here at home due to the pandemic will expire on Wednesday.
After being hit by flight crisis and air ticket crunch, the Bangladeshi migrants to the oil-enriched Middle Eastern country are now demanding that the foreign ministry convince its Saudi counterpart to agree to automatic visa extension.
Workers who have been struggling for air tickets for the last couple of days said many will be eligible to reach the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) again after completing the lengthy process -- obtaining at least three papers from the Saudi employer -- in a short period of time.
As migrants will not be issued air tickets without a valid visa and Saudi work permit Iqama, hundreds of them continued demonstrations on Tuesday in the capital's Karwanbazar, demanding relaxation of the conditions for re-entry visas and air tickets.
In the morning, they took position for around 30 minutes at Karwanbazar intersection, adjacent to the Saudi Airlines office at Hotel Sonargaon – prompting a severe traffic jam at one of the busiest thoroughfares of the capital.
Hatirjheel Police Station Sub-Inspector Sultana Jahan said more than 200 workers later went to Foreign Ministry to press home their demands.
According to Jakerul Haque, a Saudi returnee hailing from Chittagong, the Foreign Minister had said that a request for automatic visa extension would be made to his Saudi counterpart.
Earlier, upon receiving a request from Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry, the KSA extended the validity of Iqamas for stranded Bangladeshi migrants by 24 days starting from October 1.
Previously, the Saudi government had thrice granted automatic extensions of the Bangladeshi citizens' work permits owing to the pandemic situation.
For extension of a re-entry visa, a worker will require a letter attested by the Saudi foreign ministry from his employer about extension of leave, a copy of valid Iqama and another letter from the Saudi General Directorate of Passports, said Kafil Uddin Mazumder, general secretary of Saudi Visa Service Centre Owners Association.
"All these documents will be provided by the employers to the returnees and they will then have to submit the documents to visa processing agencies. However, since the returnees are now in Bangladesh, it is difficult for them to manage these papers from their employers," Kafil Uddin added.
He also thinks the Bangladesh foreign ministry should talk to the Saudi Arabian authorities, either requesting them to relax the visa renewal terms or to simplify the process.
The returnees have been protesting since September 16, demanding air tickets to go back to their workplaces in the Middle Eastern country.
According to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, over 1 lakh Bangladeshi expats got stranded home after returning from overseas amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Around 80% of these expats are Saudi returnees.