Good news for stranded Saudi returnees

All will be able to join work, says Momen

Good news for the stranded Saudi Arabia returnees in Bangladesh – they will be able to join their works.

Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told Bangladesh Post on Wednesday evening that both sides have decided to allow their respective national flag carriers to operate flights.

“We have very good news. All expats will be able to join their works. The path has been smoothened,” he said as both sides allowed the national flag carriers to operate flights.

The decision came following protests of the stranded workers in Dhaka after Biman Bangladesh airlines stopped selling tickets due to the lack of landing permission in the Saudi Arabia.

The foreign minister said he had a meeting with the civil aviation authority on Wednesday following which they had decided to give permission to the Saudi airlines to start flights with Dhaka.

“Later, our ambassador in Saudi Arabia informed me that our Biman will also get the landing permission,” he said.

“So, there will be no problem for our peoples' return,” he said, adding that two more ‘important decisions’ were taken by the Saudi authorities to help the workers to return to their jobs smoothly.

“They will be able to extend their visas from Sunday when the embassy in Dhaka opens. So far in our knowledge most of them have visas. Only 5 percent visas may be expired.

“Even there will be no problem with iqama or work permit which is a personal issue of a worker and depends on the company to company,” the foreign minister said.

“The Saudi authority has informed us that if the iqama of a person expires by this time, they will consider it valid in this Arabic month of Safar,” he said. Today, September 23, is the 6th of Safar which means their aqama will remain valid for 24 more days.

The oil-rich kingdom is the most popular destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers. Of last year’s record $18.355 billion remittance inflow, 19.87 percent came from the Saudi Arabia.

Many workers could not return to their work due to the Covid-19 pandemic that triggered all countries to suspend their air links.

A group of Bangladeshi migrant workers demonstrated at Karwan Bazar Biman Bangladesh counter on Tuesday morning demanding tickets to Saudi Arabia to join their workplaces.

Biman Bangladesh Airlines Managing Director Md Mokabbir Hossain requested passengers not to gather at the counters before the flight announcement. He had said they got approval to operate flights to Saudi Arabia from October 1.

“Landing permission is required before beginning of seat reservation. But Saudi Arabia is yet to provide it. So, now it’s not possible to start allocating seats for the passengers,” he had said.

“Flights will be announced as soon as landing permission is received”.

The Foreign Minister earlier on Wednesday urged the expatriate Bangladeshis to have patience instead of breaking discipline and said the government is working sincerely to resolve their crisis.

“We’re working together. We are working sincerely to resolve the problem,” the foreign minister told reporters at his office after an inter-ministerial meeting.

The government on Tuesday also wrote a letter to the Saudi authority requesting them to extend the tenure of valid visa holders and iqama for another three months after Sep 30.

The foreign minister also cautioned workers that such demonstrations might bring negative outcomes for the workers since the Saudi government does not promote any anti-discipline activities.

“Our Prime Minister (Sheikh Hasina) never wants expatriates to suffer,” Dr Momen said.