Around 13,000 Qatar returnees are struggling to go back to their workplaces due mostly to the expiry of their iqama validity and the Qatar authority's suspension of the re-entry permit in the wake of pandemic.
Under the circumstances, the migrant workers in the middle-eastern country demand that the government take pragmatic steps to ensure their return to workplaces.
"My employer applied three times for my re-entry permit, but the Qatar authority turned down his application," said Abdul Mannan, who came to Bangladesh on a one-month vacation on 3 March.
Hailing from Lakshmipur, Manna used to work at a restaurant in Doha, and now he cannot return to his workplace.
"I find it quite difficult to make ends meet. Now, I want to return to Qatar through an exceptional entry permit," he said.
He urged the Bangladesh government to hold talks with the Qatar authority to find a way out for all migrant workers.
Another returnee Al Amin echoed the same. "I had been in Qatar since 2008, and could not go back to my workplace due to expiry of my iqama."
"Over the last one year, I have borrowed around Tk5 lakh on interest and now I am completely jobless and finding it difficult to carry on my expenses."
Al Amin said he would get around Tk8 lakh as arrears from the private company in Qatar where he worked.
"If I can't go there now, I will not get back the outstanding. How will I repay the loan?" he posed a question.
Qatar Foreign Minister Yousuf Mohamed Al Othman gave the assurance that the country would issue an exceptional entry permit for expatriate Bangladeshis soon, but to no avail yet.
The Qatar minister came up with the assurance at a meeting with Bangladesh Ambassador of Qatar Md Jashim Uddin on 24 October.
Md Jashim requested the Qatar minister to take measures in this regard by issuing exceptional entry permits.
He also handed over to Yousuf a list of migrant workers from Bangladesh.
Md Shahdat Hossain, senior vice-president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, told The Business Standard, "Our workers have to wait till Qatar authority issues entry permit."
However, the foreign ministry should be more proactive on the issue, he added.
Qatar returnees hold human chain
The migrant workers have so far rallied to get any help from the government.
On Sunday morning in front of the National Press Club, about 500 expatriates working for various private companies in Qatar staged a human chain demanding steps by the government to obtain entry permit for them from the Qatar authority.
"We have been demanding an entry permit for the last three months, but our demand falls on deaf ears," said the migrant workers.
"We seek Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's intervention to expedite diplomatic efforts with the government of Qatar to extend our iqama limit."
Some 3.5 lakh Bangladeshis are working in Qatar, according to an unofficial estimate. Around 2.5 lakh have returned home from 1 April to 31 October after becoming jobless from 19 middle-eastern countries.
A total of 26,000 are from Qatar, according to the data of expatriate welfare desk at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
Qatar reopened its labour market for Bangladeshi workers in February this year after a closure for several months, but Covid-19 changed the situation. Till March 3,503 new migrant workers have gone to Qatar.
Earlier, Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Minister Imran Ahmad said there will be a huge demand for Bangladeshi workers in Qatar as the next FIFA World Cup will be held in there in 2022.
Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) expected that Bangladesh would be able to send 2-3 lakh workers to Qatar.