Dhaka hopeful of positive response from Riyadh over extension request
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday urged the Bangladeshi expatriates willing to return to Saudi Arabia 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.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam, among others, attended the meeting chaired by Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad.
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.
"Our prime minister never wants expatriates to suffer," Momen said.
He said the government has requested the Saudi government to extend the tenure of valid visa holders and aqama for another three months.
"We just made the request yesterday [Tuesday]," Momen said expecting a positive outcome from the Saudi side.
The foreign minister urged the workers not to get misguided by anyone and mentioned that the person who submitted a demand letter on behalf of demonstrating workers is not an expatriate but a local person involved in politics.
He said the Saudi government is observing it as TV channels and other media are reporting their demonstrations.
Momen also expressed his fear saying the government will have nothing to do if anybody's visa is cancelled. "Their [Saudi govt’s] position is very strong in this regard."
He recalled almost seven years’ ban on recruitment of Bangladeshi workers by the Saudi government.
The foreign minister said the prime minister worked hard and had discussions with the Saudi leadership several times resulting in the resumption of Bangladeshi recruitment.
"Now we’ve very good relations with Saudi Arabia," he said urging the workers to remain careful so that the Saudi government does not get any negative impression about Bangladesh.
Momen said the Saudi government is very concerned about the Covid-19 situation there.
He said the government has given permission to all the airlines from the Saudi Arabia to come to Bangladesh and take Bangladeshis back to the KSA.
Momen said Biman Bangladesh Airlines is also ready and they will fly soon after getting landing permission from the Saudi government.
Responding to a question about the return of 112 Bangladeshis from the United Arab Emirates, he said they all had valid visas but they did not have clearance from their respective employers.
The foreign minister said the new rule of the UAE was unknown to them.
He said the Ministry of Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment is very generous about them and is finding ways to help Bangladeshis return to the UAE.
The foreign minister also talked about 54,000 people described by the KSA as Rohingyas and 462 people in Saudi prisons.
He said Bangladesh will bring them back after scrutiny if they are proved to be Bangladeshi, not Rohingyas.
On Tuesday, Bangladesh sought extension of another three months from Saudi Arabia for Bangladeshi valid visa holders and their Iqama (valid work permit) in an effort to help workers return to their work.
The Saudi government has so far extended the validity of Iqama for Bangladesh citizens thrice who got stuck here due to 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.
On Monday, Managing Director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines Md Mokabbir Hossain said they got approval to operate flights to the kingdom from October 1.
He said 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,” the MD said, adding that flights will be announced as soon as landing permission is received.
He also requested the passengers not to gather at the counters before the announcement of flight schedules.
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%) were sent from Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, 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 workplaces.