The government on Wednesday said 28,849 expatriates, mostly from the Middle East (ME), will return home within the next couple of weeks.
So far, 3,695 expatriate Bangladeshis have returned home from the ME.”We discussed how we can bring them back. We can do it,” Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said after the fifth inter-ministerial meeting.
Dr Momen said Bangladeshi expatriates are expected to return home from the United Arab Emirates, Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Oman, and Kuwait.
He said the countries will send them first who came under general amnesty and released from jails. “We’ll bring all of them back home. There’s no doubt,” Dr Momen said.
He said the President of Maldives informed the government that they will send back 1,500 Bangladeshis of which 400 will return home on Thursday in addition to those who already returned.Dr Momen said Bangladesh, like other countries including India, will bring back its nationals from the UAE.
He did not mention how many Bangladesh nationals will return home from the UAE but said India is planning to bring back around 197,000 of its citizens from the UAE.
The Foreign Minister said Saudi Arabia did not provide the full list yet but there is a possibility that 4,262 Bangladesh nationals will return from Saudi Arabia at this moment.
He said around 1,000 Bangladeshis will return from Oman while the government is trying to involve the IOM to bring back Bangladesh citizens from Lebanon free of cost.
Dr Momen said a good number of Bangladesh nationals lost jobs in Iraq and the government is working to bring them back as well.
The Foreign Minister said Kuwait announced general amnesty for those who were convicted and kept some 4,500 undocumented Bangladesh nationals in camps to repatriate them.
The government asked Bangladesh Mission in Kuwait to ensure adequate food supply to Bangladesh citizens as there are reports that they were not given adequate food.
“We’ll bring them back when the Kuwait government wants and arranges flights for them. They took the responsibility,” Dr Momen said.
Support for Returnees
The Foreign Minister said expatriates Bangladeshis are assets of the country and the government will make sure that they do not face any problems.
He said the government has quarantine facilities for 3,000 plus persons in Dhaka apart from similar facilities in other parts of the country.
Dr Momen said the returnees will be able to get loan from the COVID-19 Recovery Fund so that they can start small businesses in the country.Each of them can get loan of Tk 5-9 lakh, he said.
The Foreign Minister said the government has so far brought back 2,853 Bangladeshis who got stranded in a number of countries including India due to coronavirus pandemic.He said Bangladesh will bring back more citizens from India, the UK, USA and Malaysia who got stuck there.
Call to Friendly Countries
Bangladesh has requested the Islamic countries and members of the NAM to make sure that no one dies of starvation. “Documented or undocumented, that doesn’t matter. No one should die of starvation. Arrange food for them,” Dr Momen requested the countries.He also urged the countries to ensure that no one’s job is lost during this crisis.
On Monday, Foreign Minister Momen termed the migrant workers “frontline contributors” to the economies and sought a joint strategy for responsibility sharing both at home and host countries.
“A meaningful global strategy for migrant workers is needed to address the challenges of COVID-19,” he said, at the NAM meeting convened by Azerbaijan.
Dr Momen urged the NAM membership to work out innovative solutions and approaches to tackle the crisis.He emphasised that the NAM’s response must be embedded in multilateralism and international solidarity through forging a robust global partnership.
The government has already allocated nearly USD 11.6 billion which is 3.5 percent of total GDP, to help the vulnerable people and businesses to bear the shocks of the pandemic.
Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and representative of the relevant ministries and department were connected through videoconference.