Expatriates will be informed about the procedures on Thursday
The government has decided to send migrant workers with valid work visas abroad on special flights.
Initially, permission has been allowed to send expatriates to Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Singapore.
The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting on Wednesday, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad told Dhaka Tribune.
Apart from these five countries, arrangements will also be made for the countries to which migrant workers are allowed to go, he said.
The minister added: "The government has taken all measures to ensure that migrant workers do not have any problem in reaching the destination countries."
Expatriates will be informed about the procedures on Thursday.
Earlier, the Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry held several meetings with the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry and the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) to send abroad a good number of workers, who are now stuck after returning home on holiday or had their flights cancelled due to restrictions imposed by the government because to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The ministry initially decided to send workers who already have valid work visas and tickets booked on regular flights.
CAAB will operate the special flights to destinations that have not suspended flights to and from Bangladesh because of the recent surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), more than 40,000 migrant workers have remained stranded in the country due to the suspension of international flights so far.
A huge number of them had already managed to fulfil requirements, in light of the pandemic, like medical certificates and hotel booking for quarantine in their destination country.
In such a situation, workers, airways operators, the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) and the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) had been urging the government to keep international flights open on condition.
Flight ban and distress
Khalilur Rahman, 32, came home in Chittagong last December for a family occasion from Saudi Arabia and was preparing to fly back by Qatar Airways on April 18. He is an industrial worker there.
“I managed the tickets by spending extra money and if I fail to return before my vacation is over, I will lose my job," he said.
Another migrant worker from Comilla, Arshad Mozumder was scheduled to fly to the UAE on April 16 on a Fly Dubai flight but the airline authorities asked him to change the schedule. Otherwise, the ticket would not be refunded.
“I have also booked a hotel in UAE for mandatory quarantine. That money is non-refundable,” he said.
Kamrun Nahar, a female migrant worker who is from the same area, told Dhaka Tribune that she had just returned from Jordan, where she had been working as a sewing operator.
She has to go back this month. Otherwise, she will not only lose her job but also not be able to go back to Jordan because her job duration card will expire. She could not manage tickets for her return.
Like them, thousands of migrant workers, who went abroad with all they had in hopes of becoming financially well off, are now in uncertainty due to the pandemic.
BAIRA, ATAB for flights to resume
ATAB President Monsur Ahmed Kalam said every day 4,000 passengers travel to Middle Eastern countries, including Saudi Arabia, Oman, UAE, Qatar, Jordan.
Migrant workers had spent their night on the streets in front of various agencies and airways offices after failing to manage tickets last year, the situation will get worse this year if there is no arrangement to start the flights soon, he said.
India, Pakistan, Nepal, and other countries are currently sending their workers to different countries amid lockdowns on special flights, said former BAIRA secretary-general Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman.
Shariful Islam Hasan, head of BRAC's migration program, said: “Migrant workers have kept the country's economy afloat by sending remittances every year and during the pandemic, we have not been able to help them return to their workplaces.”
Expatriate workers should be sent to the workplaces with special consideration and on special flights, considering their contribution to the economy, he added.