Hundreds of desperate Saudi returnees Tuesday demonstrated in the capital for the second straight day demanding air tickets to go back to work before their visas expire.
The agitated migrant workers gathered in front of the Saudi Airlines' Dhaka office at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel at Karwan Bazar due to shortages in air tickets to the Middle Eastern country.
They blocked the busy road in front of the hotel for around one hour, triggering huge traffic congestion in the area during office hours.
They submitted a demand for resolving the flight crisis by Friday next to a 3-member team of the foreign ministry headed by Additional Foreign Secretary Syed Mohammed Khandaker.
"The workers took to the streets in the Karwan Bazar-Bangla Motor road in the morning. Police convinced them to withdraw the blockade," said Sultana Jahan, duty officer of Hatirjheel Police station.
Many workers claimed their visas would expire this month and that they must return to Saudi Arabia on time.
Expat Liton Hossain said he bought a return ticket of Saudi Airlines but could not fly as flights were suspended to prevent the Covid-19 spread. Although flights would resume this month, the authorities are not issuing new tickets as per expectation.
"We heard that the workers who have return tickets had to buy new tickets again at higher prices," he added.
Ashik Ullah, another Saudi returnee, said, "My visa will expire on September 30 this year. Yet, I cannot manage a ticket from Saudi Airlines."
Previously, officials of the ministry of expatriate welfare and overseas employment said foreign missions were working to extend the validity of visas of migrant workers considering the pandemic.
On Tuesday, the civil aviation ministry sent a letter to the foreign ministry to begin working with the Saudi authorities for the visa extension.
Md Mohibul Haque, senior secretary of the civil aviation ministry, said, "Although it is not our duty to work on it, we have sent a letter to the foreign ministry in this regard."
"The Saudi authorities permitted Biman to run from October 1. But it is too late to operate flights against a huge pressure of returnee migrants," he added.
He mentioned that they would increase the flights of Saudi Airlines if the airline applies to the civil aviation ministry.
Earlier on Monday, the migrant workers protested ticket shortages by blocking the same road for around half an hour.
As Saudi Arabia announced a partial lifting of suspension of international flights from September 15, Saudi Airlines is scheduled to resume flights from Dhaka from September 23.
But the flights are not sufficient according to the demand of a huge number of stranded migrants, workers claimed.
More than one lakh Bangladeshi migrants, 80% of whom came back from Saudi Arabia, have been stranded in the country because of the emergency flight suspensions.
On Monday, Biman Bangladesh Airlines Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Md Mokabbir Hossain said Biman has been permitted to run eight commercial flights to three Saudi Arabian cities from October 1.