Wednesday, June 24, 2020 11:42:03 PM
Staff Reporter :
The future looks uncertain for thousands of Bangladeshi workers employed in Saudi Arabia as the fall in oil prices coupled with the outbreak of Covid-19 impacted the oil-rich country's economy, triggering fears of possible retrenchment of a large number of migrant people.
Besides, the Directorate General of Passports (Jawazat) announced on Tuesday that the mechanism to resume extension of the exit and re-entry visas for expatriates who are outside the Kingdom will be announced after the end of the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest move of the Saudi government may turn about 100,000 Bangladeshi workers jobless, as they remained stranded here due to halt in international flight operations amid the spread of coronavirus across the globe. Earlier they came to Bangladesh on vacation.
However, Bangladeshi officials said that the Saudi authorities are yet to communicate with them about the latest development.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment officials said that Bangladesh Embassy in Saudi Arabia is in contact with the Saudi government to ensure jobs of Bangladeshis who have valid passports and Akama or work permits.
Zulekha Akhter, who had been working in Saudi Arabia as a domestic worker for eight years, said, "Recently I have got a new job as cleaner at a company. Before joining I came to Bangladesh to spend some time with my family."
The schedule of her return flight was on March 27. But it was hampered by the general holidays in Bangladesh and cancellation of flights.
"I've been here for the last three months, I don't know when I'll be able to go. I'm not sure whether the company accepts me or not. And if they don't, my Akama will be canceled or something else. Now I an in uncertainty what will happen following the latest Jawazat's announcement."
"My agency told me that it would arrange flight by the end of June, but they haven't said anything yet," Zulekha said.
Almost all of stranded workers story as like as Zulekha.
According to the non-governmental organization BRAC, more than two lakh migrant workers have returned from different parts of the world between mid-February and March this year.
Shariful Hassan, head of BRAC's migration programme, said, "About 41,000 workers returned from Saudi Arabia between mid-February and the end of March. Later more than 13,000 workers returned home by Chartered flights. Of them, majority came from Saudi Arabia. The number of workers who were supposed to go to Saudi Arabia in three months is more than 50,000.
An average of 50-60 thousand people from Bangladesh are going abroad for jobs every month, the largest part usually goes to Saudi Arabia. About 52,000 Bangladeshis went to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) in January, 44,000 in February, and 38,000 before the flight halted in March.
There are 11 million expatriates in Saudi Arabia and Bangladeshis are around 2.2 million.
The official of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment said that they are in constant contact with the Saudi authorities to ensure that those with valid passports and Akama may have the opportunity to join their workplaces in the Kingdom.
"Inter-ministerial discussions are underway with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the issue, so that effective steps can be taken in this regard," a ministry official told The New Nation preferring anonymity.
Earlier, Saudi media reported that over 1.2 million migrant workers in KSA may lose their jobs due to the fall in oil prices coupled with the outbreak of Covid-19.
However, Sumaiya Islam, executive director of the Bangladesh Women Workers' Center, said the government should take immediate action to protect those unable to travel to Saudi Arabia.
"Since they can't go because of the coronavirus, they have to be protected from the corona. At the same time, since most of them are in financial difficulties, it is important to make arrangements to help them. The government should help them with cash and food," she said.
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