By and large, everyone will be able to return to Saudi Arabia, but they will have to be patient, foreign minister says after meeting with envoys of KSA, UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Malaysia
The migrant workers stuck in Bangladesh due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic will not be able to re-enter the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia without the approval of their sponsors, popularly known as kafeel.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting with the envoys of five Middle Eastern countries – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Bahrain – and Malaysia, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told reporters that the government has nothing to do in this regard.
Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad was also present in the meeting.
The envoy of Kuwait was also invited, but he could not come due to the death of Kuwaiti Emir.
To a question, the foreign minister admitted that the government could not ensure the re-entry of those who did not find their sponsors in Saudi Arabia.
“If your employer does not employ you, what can the government do? We cannot force the employers,” he said.
Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad said that for the workers to re-enter KSA, their sponsors will have to apply through the Foreign Ministry of that country for the issuance of visas.
This is one of the requirements for the migrant workers, he said.
The foreign minister claimed that only 53 people have so far written to the ministry stating that they did not find ‘kafeels’.
He also said that in the last few days, 5,500 to 6,000 Bangladeshi workers have flown back to Saudi Arabia.
To another question, Dr Momen said, “They (migrant workers) don’t have to take to the streets. They should look for new jobs. They can also look for new kafeels. As they are trained, they should not face any problems in getting new jobs.”
Even if they cannot go to KSA, they can do something here in Bangladesh with the Tk 700 crore fund allocated for the rehabilitation of returnees.
In this regard, Minister Imran added that many more crores will be added to the fund, if required.
He also said that we raised our issues with the envoys, who will take this up with their authorities.
So, he said that it will take some time to get the feedback.
Biman and Saudia will operate 20 flights a week from Thursday
The foreign minister said that Saudia, the national airlines of KSA, is operating many flights now.
From Thursday, 20 flights – 10 by Saudia and 10 by Biman Bangladesh Airlines – will be operated weekly, he said.
“With this, hopefully many people will be able to go (to KSA),” he added.
“By and large, everyone will go. But they will have to be patient. This is the assurance they gave to us. Everyone will have to have little patience,” said the minister.
25,000 visas will be reissued
Both the ministers said that 25,000 visas issued before March will have to be reissued as the migrants could not go due to the flight restrictions owing to the ongoing pandemic.
“They (the Saudi Arabian embassy in Dhaka) have only seven persons to deal with the issuance of visas, so it is time-consuming,” said the foreign minister.
They (migrants) will have to collect their visas in a disciplined manner, he said.
KSA is the only problem; other countries are okay
Foreign minister Dr Momen said that due to the backlog, people are facing problems with respect to Saudi Arabia only.
There is no problem with other countries, he claimed.
Citing the UAE, the minister said the Gulf nation is now operating 17 flights a week and asking for more.
“We’ll discuss that,” he said.
Things are not as bad as feared
As regards to the return of Bangladeshi workers from the Middle East due to the ongoing pandemic, things are not as bad as feared, claimed Dr Momen.
“You (reporters) have troubled us a lot. It was said that 15 (1.5 million) to 20 (2 million)lakh people would return. But, actually, only 1.27 lakh (127,000) have returned,” he said.
The figure of returnees is nowhere near the one predicted earlier, he added.