by Our Correspondent in Dhaka;
Saudi Arab has agreed to extend tenure of visas and work permits for thousands of Bangladeshi workers stranded at home because of the pandemic-triggered restrictions, officials said on Wednesday.
The development came on the heels of Dhaka’s request after several thousand migrant workers, who failed to secure air tickets, demonstrated in the Bangladeshi capital calling upon the government to ensure their return to work before their work permits expire on September 30.
During the three-day protests they asked the government to initiate discussion with the Saudi authorities to extend the tenure of their visa and work permit, and increase the frequency of flight operations between Dhaka and Riyadh.
Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen said on Wednesday evening that Saudi Arabia decided to renew expired visas and extend iqama (work permit) of Bangladeshi expatriate workers.
“The Saudi authority will keep Bangladesh workers’ iqama valid for 24 more days and if required they will extend it more,” he told reporters in Dhaka.
He said Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Mohammad Javed Patwary conveyed the message to him after a discussion with Saudi authorities.
The visa renewal process for those whose valid visas have already been expired amid the pandemic will be started here from Sunday at Dhaka’s Saudi embassy.
In another development, the minister said, the Saudi civil aviation authority gave landing permission to Biman Bangladesh Airlines to carry back the stranded workers from Dhaka.
Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority has already given approval to Saudi Arabian Airlines to operate flight from Dhaka as many as they can to ensure the workers’ return.
An estimated 2 million Bangladeshi workers are engaged in different trades in Saudi Arab. Of them more than 30,000 stranded in Bangladesh because of the novel coronavirus pandemic after they visited home in vacation.
Earlier, the Saudi authorities extended the tenure worker permits for Bangladeshis until September 30. But those were stranded back home could not manage tickets to travel to Saudi Arab as the only Saudi Arabian Airlines resumed flight operations between Dhaka and Riyadh. Two-flight a week have made the situation perplexing for the expats prompting them to take to the street to let the government take initiatives.
State-run Biman Bangladesh Airlines was scheduled to resume flight operation on October 1, but it will now operate special flights for September 26 and 27 to carry the workers.