Migrant workers staged demonstrations in front of the Expatriate Welfare Ministry in Eskaton area of the capital on Wednesday morning, demanding extension of tenures of visas and Iqamas, and arrangement of air tickets for returning to Saudi Arabia.
The protesters gathered in front of the office of Saudi Arabia Airlines in Karwan Bazar in the morning and took position at Sonargaon crossing around 9:30am, halting traffic, said Abdur Rashid, officer-in-charge of Hatirjheel Police Station.
At one stage, the protesters started leaving the road after 10:30am and then the traffic returned to normalcy. Later, a group of protesters marched towards Probashi Kallyan Bhaban, occupied the road outside the ministry building and staged demonstrations there.
Another group of protester staged demonstrations in front of the Jatiya Press Club and the Foreign Ministry. The workers said they will lose their jobs in Saudi Arabia if they fail to return to their workplaces by September 30.
A group of Bangladeshi migrant workers demonstrated at Karwan Bazar on Tuesday and Wednesday demanding air tickets to Saudi Arabia so that they can join their jobs.
Saudi Arabia is set to allow flights from Dhaka from October 1 after around seven months of coronavirus restriction. Meanwhile, Saudia Airlines office has suspended issuing air tickets which sparked the protests.
On Monday, Managing Director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Md Mokabbir Hossain said they got approval to operate flights to the kingdom from October 1.Landing permission is required before beginning seat reservation. But Saudi Arabia is yet to provide that, he said.
“So, now it’s not possible to start allocating seats for the passengers,” the MD said, adding that flight schedules will be announced as soon as landing permission is received.
Earlier in the day, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen urged the Bangladeshi expatriates willing to return to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) to “have patience” instead of breaking the discipline.
“We all are working together. We’re working very sincerely to resolve the problem. Having patience is very important,” he told reporters at his office after an inter-ministerial meeting.
The Foreign Minister warned that the Saudi government does not promote any anti-discipline activities and such demonstrations might bring negative outcomes for the workers.
He said the government has requested the Saudi government to extend the tenures of valid visa holders and aqama for another three months. “We just made the request yesterday (Tuesday),” Dr Momen said expecting a positive outcome from the Saudi side.
The Saudi government has so far extended the validity of Iqama for Bangladesh citizens thrice who got stuck here due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The period of the latest extension will expire on September 30.
Bangladesh Embassy to Saudi Arabia has sent a letter to the Saudi Foreign Ministry requesting an extension of three months beyond September 30.
The oil-rich kingdom is the most popular destination for migrant workers from Bangladesh. Last year, Bangladeshi migrants sent back US$18.355 billion. Of the amount, $3.647 billion (19.87 percent) were sent from Saudi Arabia.