Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Friday said the government has made coordinated efforts to help expatriates return to their workplaces in five countries by special flights from Saturday without any hassle.
"Many reached out to us after the announcement of lockdown saying they'll lose their jobs if they can't go abroad, and their visa validity or Iqama will expire. We don't want to see our expatriates face any difficulty," he told UNB.
The government decided to allow airlines, including Biman Bangladesh Airlines, to operate special flights to five countries -- Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Singapore -- in an effort to help stranded Bangladeshi expatriate workers join their workplaces.
Asked about possible rise in ticket fare, the Foreign Minister said normally the fares of special flight tickets remain comparatively higher than that of regular flight tickets as the return flights will be empty.
However, he said, the ground handling charge will remain the same which will help keep the ticket fares at a tolerable level.
Dr Momen said travel arrangements will be made on a priority basis for those who have visas and work permits.
Those who bought tickets for April 14, 15 and 16 but could not leave Dhaka for their destination due to suspension of flight operations, arrangements will be made for them, too on a priority basis so that they can reach their destinations, he said.
Dr Momen said the government has made arrangements to bring those passengers in Dhaka who purchased tickets from Chattogram as the special flights will be operated from Dhaka only.
"We're seeking to maintain the normal schedule for the special flights but it would not be known as commercial flights," said the Foreign Minister.
He said the relevant ministries and departments are working in a coordinated way, and police will not stop them who booked tickets and have Covid-19 test reports. "We're working in a coordinated way."
The government has decided to discourage expatriate Bangladeshis to return home during the lockdown, unless there is an emergency.
"If they come, they'll have to follow a minimum 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine," Dr Momen said.
To convey the message to expatriates, support from the social media platforms, Bangladesh missions' websites and community leaders will be taken.
Each of the returnees will have to show Covid-19 negative certificate which is a must, and the Bangladesh missions abroad will prepare the lists of those who need to come to Bangladesh on an emergency need.
The Armed Forces Division will take adequate preparations for institutional quarantine facilities in Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet.
The decisions were taken at a virtual inter-ministerial meeting held on Thursday chaired by Foreign Minister Dr Momen.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahbub Ali, State Minister for Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam and senior officials of the ministries concerned attended.
Among the expatriate Bangladeshi workers who want to go to these five countries having BMET clearance issued by the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment, will be given priority in flying abroad.
However, in the case of these countries, those who have visit visas, but do not have BMET clearance, will not get priority in going abroad.
Bangladeshis who will go to the UAE for work with visit visas can get a BMET clearance.
During the lockdown, those who wish to travel to countries other than the five mentioned countries in the case of emergency will be able to travel on special flights as transit-passengers subject to clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.