In the last seven years, ministers and senior government officials, on numerous occasions, have expressed optimism that the UAE job market would open “soon,” but the optimism is yet to materialise
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) job market has remained all but shut to Bangladeshi workers for more than seven years.
According to individuals concerned, it still appears uncertain whether or when, or if at all, the job market in the UAE, the second largest remittance sending country for Bangladesh, will be reopened.
The oil rich Gulf nation stopped issuing visas to all Bangladeshis in October 2012, due to problems arising out of fake travel documents, forged passports and law and order. The move was a bad blow to Bangladesh’s dependence on its second largest labour market after Saudi Arabia.
Later, issuance of visas for tourism and businesses resumed, alongside a negligible number of visas for workers.
In the last seven years, ministers and senior government officials, on numerous occasions, have expressed optimism that the UAE job market would open “soon,” but the optimism is yet to materialise.
Not even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the UAE in 2014 could break the ice, although people at the time were led to believe that the visa ban would soon go.
● Efforts so far failed to convince Abu Dhabi to lift ban on Bangladeshi workers
● Foreign and overseas employment ministries trade blame
● Abu Dhabi keeps on reassuring without any outcome
● Two sides expected to discuss issue during Sheikh Hasina’s ongoing UAE visit
● UAE second largest remittance sending country for Bangladesh
So far, Bangladesh’s efforts have failed to convince the UAE government to lift the ban.
A number of officials of the Foreign Ministry and Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry told Dhaka Tribune that the Bangladesh government had done everything to address the concerns of the UAE. Currently around a million Bangladeshis reside in the Emirates.
But the job market is not reopening, although Abu Dhabi has held out assurances at almost all meetings with the Bangladesh government that things would change.
Prime Minister Hasina arrived in Abu Dhabi on Sunday night on a three-day official visit to attend the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2020 and Zayed Sustainability Prize Ceremony.
She was scheduled to hold separate meetings with several dignitaries, including the UAE prime minister and the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Officials in Dhaka said the issue of Bangladeshi workers’ job market would hopefully be discussed by the two sides during the meetings.
Here in Dhaka, officials of the two ministries involved have revealed a tendency of blaming each other for the impasse over the visa-related issue.
Despite repeated attempts by Dhaka Tribune, the two ministers concerned and the secretary of the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry were unavailable for comments.
“It is not true that the job market has been shut completely. A few days back, we sent some drivers to the UAE,” Fazlul Karim, joint secretary (employment wing) of the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry, told this correspondent.
In reply to a question, he acknowledged that large scale employment was yet to resume.
“It’s a diplomatic issue,” he said, but avoided a reply when asked what more the UAE expected Bangladesh to do.
However, Fazlul Karim added: “The prime minister is now in the UAE. It is expected that this issue will be discussed during the talks between the two sides.”
A senior Foreign Ministry official, on condition of anonymity said: “Look, the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry is the line ministry when it comes to employment abroad. Our job is to facilitate matters and we are doing that.”
“At every opportunity, we raise the issue with our UAE counterparts, who reassure us. Even so, the market is not reopening. We don’t know what more we can do. We wish we knew.”
The official added: “Of course, this issue will be discussed when the Bangladesh side, led by the prime minister, will sit with the UAE side tomorrow [Tuesday].”
Abu Dhabi unhappy?
Talking to Dhaka Tribune, another official said: “Perhaps Abu Dhabi is still not happy with our efforts to address their concerns.
“There may still be hurt feelings among some over our decision against the UAE hosting the Dubai Expo 2020 in the first round. Of course, we did vote for the UAE in the next round and they seemed happy.”
The official also said: “The lack of coordination between the Foreign Ministry and the Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry is also to blame to a significant extent.”
Shahadat Hossain, senior vice president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, said: “Currently, the UAE only issues tourist and business visas. No visas for workers. Losing the UAE job market has been and still is a severe setback for us.”
“As far as I know, the UAE government is reluctant to reopen the labour market as Bangladeshi workers protested earlier, demanding certain things; and authorities in Middle Eastern countries do not like agitations,” he added.