Migrant workers, who had been stranded at home ever since they came back from Saudi Arabia for holidays, yesterday said they were worried about the renewal of their work permits despite assurance from Bangladesh government.
The workers were not able to fly back to the Gulf country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
A number of them said their work permits were not renewed even after the Saudi government announced an automatic extension of the validity of the work permits earlier this month.
Some saw their work permits renewed following the announcement but the extended validity will end soon, they added.
Several thousand migrant workers yesterday rushed to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in the capital’s Gulshan diplomatic area after Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said they could get their expired visas renewed there.
The minister also said their work permits (iqama) would remain valid until October 17.
Shah Alam, a migrant worker from Cumilla’s Titas, said he came to Bangladesh with a six-month re-entry visa and was supposed to return to Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh in April.
He said he checked the validity of his iqama yesterday using a recommended application.
“The app showed my iqama was still ‘invalid’,” said the migrant worker, who lived in Saudi Arabia for more than two decades.
“I am very worried now,” he said, adding that he saw some other workers’ iqamas get renewed automatically.
Alam said the app showed his iqama had been invalid for the past two months.
He communicated with his employer in Saudi Arabia who advised him to communicate with Saudi embassy in Bangladesh.
Preferring anonymity, a migrant worker from Cumilla’s Homna, said his iqama’s validity was expired on Saturday even after automatic renewal by the Saudi government.
The worker, who lived in Dammam, said he came home in March on a two-month vacation and has remained stranded because of flight cancellations.
Md Alam, a worker from Brahmanbaria, said his iqama will remain valid till September 30, which was also automatically extended.
He said he came home 15 days before the Covid-19 outbreak on a two-month vacation and is also stranded now.
Alam, 45, said he first went to Saudi Arabia in 1994. He had a good monthly income of about Tk 2 lakh at a motor shop in the city of Ha’il.
BARRED FROM REACHING EMBASSY
Migrant workers were not allowed to reach the Saudi embassy premises and were stopped yards away by police yesterday.
They were asked to submit their papers to a number of “services offices approved by the embassy” to get their required service.
Asked, Nazmul Hasan Firoz, assistant deputy commissioner (Gulshan) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said the Saudi Arabian embassy has provided a list of the service offices that police distributed among the workers.
Firoz, who was on duty, said those offices will provide the required services to the workers on behalf of the Saudi embassy.
He added that the migrant workers were asked to communicate via those agencies as giving such a large number of people access to the embassy was difficult amid the pandemic situation.
SAUDIA TO OPERATE TWO MORE WEEKLY FLIGHTS
In another development, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has given permission to Saudi Arabian Airlines to operate two more weekly flights from Dhaka to the KSA from October 1.
“Saudia sought permission to operate two more weekly flights from us and we gave them that permission,” CAAB Chairman Air-Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman told The Daily Star over the phone.
He also said CAAB is ready to allow Saudia to operate as many flights it wants from Dhaka so that stranded Bangladeshi migrant workers can return to their workplaces without any problem.
A top official of Saudi Arabian Airlines’ Dhaka office said that from October 1, the airlines will operate two more flights in addition to its existing two weekly flights, meaning Saudia will operate four weekly flights from Dhaka.
Earlier in the last week, CAAB chairman said Bangladesh is also ready to give permission to other airlines of Saudi Arabia to operate from Dhaka to carry Bangladeshi expatriate Bangladeshi workers.
The government on September 23 said the Saudi government has agreed to extend iqamas and visas for 24 days for the Bangladeshis who returned home on holiday but could not go back to the kingdom due to the pandemic
Around 50,000 Bangladeshi migrant workers have been worrying about losing their jobs if they fail to return to Saudi Arabia before the expiry of their visas and iqamas.
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.