On Tuesday, nearly 3,000 Bangladeshi expatriates who got stranded at home after the pandemic-led flight cancellation demanded government take steps for their return to Bahrain.
The workers whose visas for the Middle Eastern country expired during their extended home stay claimed they are now in financial trouble. They urged the government to convince the Gulf country to allow the workers to re-enter with visit and on-arrival visas.
The workers formed a human chain at the Jatiya Press Club and staged demonstration on Tuesday to press home their demands. Later, nearly 100 stranded expatriates walked in an agitation march and staged a sit-in in front of the Probashi Kallyan Bhaban.
A five-member team of the agitating workers submitted a memo to the foreign ministry. The workers also submitted another memo via the police to the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare & Overseas Employment.
The expatriates said they got stranded due to the entry ban imposed by the Bahraini government followed by the pandemic, even though they had returned to the country on vacation. Though their visas had expired, those were not extended or renewed.
The expatriates said many that other Middle Eastern countries were extending visas for workers who had got stranded due to the pandemic while on holidays, allowing them to return to work.
They said each working visa to Bahrain costs Tk3-4 lakh and the country has not been issuing new visas and visit visas for the last four years. Many workers had taken loans from banks and NGOs to be able to go to Bahrain. But they are now unable to repay the instalments as they have been stuck at home for a long time.
Khorshedul Islam is one such worker who took out a loan to go to Bahrain, hoping to change his fortune. Khorshedul said everything was going well at work in Bahrain until the coronavirus pandemic hit.
"I cannot return to Bahrain now. My entire family is in severe financial difficulties and I am unable to repay the loans," he told The Business Standard.
According to unofficial estimates, some 200,000 Bangladeshis are currently working in Bahrain.
Shishir Khan, convener of the platform of the stranded workers, told TBS that all quarters of the government had been contacted but to no avail.
In another development Tuesday, 2,500 Bangladeshi workers who were scheduled to go to Saudi Arabia this year but could not migrate due to the pandemic formed a separate human chain in front of the Press Club seeking government intervention.
More than 100,000 returnees from different countries have been stranded at home amid covid-19, according to Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies. Most are working in Middle Eastern countries.
In the meantime, many have already returned to their workplaces after the resumption of selected flights.