The authorities have decided to allow more flights to Saudi Arabia for the thousands of people desperately waiting to go to their workplaces in the Gulf country.
Most of them came to Bangladesh before the international travel restrictions were imposed amid the pandemic and have been unable to return.
Bangladesh will allow Saudi Arabian Airlines to operate as many flights as it wants, said Air-Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority (Caab).
Other airliners will also be allowed to resume regular flight operations between the two countries, he added.
If the Saudi authorities allow Biman Bangladesh Airlines to operate an increased number of flights, there should not be any problem for 35,000 Bangladeshis to reach their workplaces on time, the Caab chief told The Daily Star.
Before resuming its regular flights to Saudi Arabia on October 1, Biman will operate two flights on September 26 and 27, carrying those who had booked return tickets for March 16 and 17, but could not fly due to the coronavirus restrictions.
Saudi Arabian Airlines resumed its regular flights from Dhaka on Wednesday.
Apart from operating two flights a week, the airlines got permission to operate six special flights from Dhaka by September 30.
With the Saudi government agreeing to extend the visa and work permit deadlines by 24 days, about 35,000 Bangladeshi expatriates will now have to reach their workplaces by October 17.
The Bangladesh government on Wednesday said Saudi government had agreed to extend the iqama (work permit) and visas for the Bangladeshis who returned home on vacation but could not go back to the Kingdom because of the pandemic.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said the migrants with expired visas could get those renewed at the Saudi embassy in Bangladesh from Sunday and their work permits would remain valid until October 17.
The validity of the permits might be extended further if need be.
The development came after hundreds of people demonstrated at Karwan Bazar in the capital for several days and laid siege to the expatriates’ welfare ministry at Eskaton on Wednesday.
Yesterday, the foreign minister hoped that all Bangladeshi expatriate workers would reach Saudi Arabia before their Iqama expired.
“The Saudi government has assured us that they would further extend the Iqama validity for the rest of the Bangladeshi workers who are stuck here,” he said.
The foreign minister also urged the Saudi bound Bangladeshi nationals to maintain discipline during the process of visa renewal and air ticket booking, so as to avoid giving a bad impression to the Saudi government.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam in a Facebook post said the Saudi government has permitted Biman Bangladesh Airlines to operate two flights a week each to Riyadh and Jeddah.
Meanwhile, the expatriates started gathering in front of the Saudi airlines ticket counter at the city’s Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel early in the morning yesterday to buy tickets.
A top official of the airlines said, “We will operate six special flights from Dhaka until September 30 to carry more Bangladeshi expatriate workers to their workplaces in Saudi Arabia.”
Apart from the six special flights, the airlines will continue to operate their two regular weekly flights from Dhaka until September 30, he said requesting anonymity.
Asked how many flights they will operate from Dhaka from October 1, the official said they will inform the media after getting CAAB approval.
Home to more than 22 lakh Bangladeshis, Saudi Arabia is also the prime destination of Bangladeshi migrant workers and the biggest remittance-generating country for Bangladesh.
Around 35,000 migrants returned to the country from the Kingdom on vacation after late February but could not go back due to the suspension of flights in March, said sources at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport and at the expatriates’ welfare ministry.
On September 13, the Saudi Ministry of Interior announced a partial resumption of international flights.
The Kingdom will lift all restrictions on air, land and sea transport after January 1 next year, according to Arab News.
OMAN OPENS BORDER
Bangladeshi expatriate workers stranded in the country since March due to the pandemic will be able to return to Oman from October 1 after the Middle Eastern country opens its border for Bangladeshi workers.
Talking to The Daily Star, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen yesterday said, “Yet another good news for the country’s expatriate workers: Oman has sent us a verbal note today stating that the Bangladeshi stranded workers will be able to enter into the country from October 1.”
Earlier in the day, the foreign minister told reporters at his office that the Bangladeshi workers will need to have their valid passport, valid Oman residency ID and Covid-19 negative certificate through PCR tests, and agree to undergo a 14-day quarantine after entering Oman.