Help the stranded migrant workers Dhaka urges KSA, other countries

The government yesterday requested Saudi Arabia and other major labour-receiving countries to address the problems of Bangladeshi migrant workers desperately waiting to go back to their workplaces.

The requests were made in a meeting between delegations of missions of Gulf countries and Malaysia and two Bangladeshi ministers at the state guesthouse Padma.

“We have discussed [problems regarding] iqama and visa. We did not get any immediate result. We have to wait a bit,” Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad told reporters after the meeting.

Migrant workers, who had been stranded at home since coming back from Saudi Arabia for holiday, recently took to the streets out of concern over renewal of their work permit (iqama) and visa, despite repeated assurance from the Bangladesh government.

Imran Ahmad said the Bangladesh government has urged the foreign missions to address the problems of the Bangladeshi workers with their respective governments.

He said he is hopeful of a positive outcome.

However, there should be alternative plans if the result is not as expected, he added.

Talking to reporters, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said, “We have requested that they [the missions] tell their governments to help them [workers].”

On Saudi-based expatriates’ demand for another automatic extension of their visas and iqama, the foreign minister said it is a matter for the Saudi government to decide.

“However, we have urged them to see [workers’ issues] sympathetically,” he added.

He said currently there was no problem regarding workers’ return to other destinations.

The Saudi government has agreed to re-issue about 25,000 new visas which had expired in March amid the pandemic, Abdul Momen said.

On Sunday, several thousand migrant workers rushed to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Bangladesh after the foreign minister on September 23 said they could get their expired visas renewed.

He also said their work permits would remain valid until October 17.

Police, however, barred the migrant workers from the Saudi embassy premises. The workers were asked to submit their papers to a number of “services offices approved by the embassy”.

Belayet Hossain, an expatriate waiting to return to Saudi Arabia, yesterday said as per requirement for renewal of his expired visa, he communicated with his kafil (sponsor) in Saudi Arabia for supporting documents.

Belayet, who is from Feni, said if he fails to reach his workplace on time, his employer could prevent him from entering the Gulf country for the next three years.

On the other hand, if his employer does not want to rehire him, then the employer can issue a “clearance” document, which would help him seek new work in the Kingdom, he said.

He urged the government to take prompt steps in this regard so that if workers fail to reach their workplaces in Saudi Arabia on time, they could have the “clearance paper” from their respective sponsors.

Addressing reporters, Foreign Minister Momen yesterday said in case workers are not required by employers in the Kingdom, they should look for new job opportunities since they are trained.

The minister said for the returnee migrant workers, the government has readied loan facilities of about Tk 700 crore.

Responding to a query, the foreign minister said Saudi Arabian Airlines and Biman Bangladesh Airlines will operate 10 weekly flights from today from Bangladesh to the Kingdom.

He also said about 5,500 to 6,000 expatriates were able to make their flights to Saudi Arabia in the past few days and some 53 stranded workers have so far been unable to contact their employers.

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