Thirty two Saudi returnees were barred from boarding their flight to Saudi Arabia on Saturday from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport as they did the mandatory Covid-19 tests at private hospitals instead of doing it at the designated state-owned one.
Confirming the matter to The Business Standard, Director of the airport AHM Tauhid-al-Hasan said, "The Saudi-bound expatriates were scheduled to leave Dhaka for Saudi Arabia at 6:25pm on a Saudi Airlines flight from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
"We stopped them because they did not carry Covid-19 certificates from the proper institution [Mohakhali Covid-19 Sample Collection Centre]. Saudi Airlines will issue new tickets for them at a later time."
Meanwhile, on the same day, hundreds of stranded Saudi returnees gathered at the Saudi Airlines and Biman Bangladesh Airlines sales centres and fussed over tickets in a bid to return to their workplaces.
The agitated expatriates, who have been struggling to get their return tickets to Saudi Arabia, blocked the main road and took position in front of the Saudi Airlines office at the Karwan Bazar area in Dhaka following a mad rush for tickets.
Responding to a query, Hatirjheel Police Station's Sub-Inspector Sultana Jahan said, "Hundreds of ticket seekers blocked the Karwan Bazar-Banglamotor road at around 9am for more than one hour. Later, the police convinced them to leave the road."
'We were not informed'
Shah Jahan, one of the Saudi returnees who was barred from boarding his flight on Saturday, complained to the Brac Migration Programme, "I tested for Covid-19 from the Enam Medical Centre. But when we collected our tickets, we were not informed that the testing had to be carried out at the Mohakhali Covid-19 Sample Collection Centre."
Besides, a relative of an expatriate named Nur Islam said, "I had taken my brother to the Dhanmondi Ibn Sina Hospital for a Covid-19 test, and he took a certificate from that facility. But he got stuck at the airport."
Commenting on the matter, Directorate General of Health Services' Director of Management Information System (MIS) Dr Md Habibur Rahman said, "Mohakhali Covid-19 Sample Collection Centre is the designated facility for testing people seeking to go abroad.
"Anyone who took certificates from private hospitals will not be allowed to leave the country."
Mad rush for tickets
The Saudi Airlines office at Hotel Sonargaon in the capital's Karwan Bazar area started selling tickets from 8am on Saturday, for the third consecutive day.
However, hundreds of Saudi expatriates gathered in front of the office for tickets the same morning, creating an unrest about who will get their ticket first. At one point, agitated ticket seekers blocked the road, causing traffic disruption and inconvenience for commuters.
There was a lot of pressure for tickets on Saturday morning at the Biman sales centre in the Motijheel area too. Around 700-800 expatriates gathered in the area in a mad rush for getting tickets. The situation continued till noon, but later became normal as the pressure decreased.
Biman offers Jeddah flight on September 30
The Biman Bangladesh Airlines will operate a flight to Jeddah on September 30 for the passengers who have tickets for March 21.
The state-owned carrier has asked the passengers, who became stranded after returning to Bangladesh amid the global Covid-19 pandemic, to contact the sales counter of the airlines on September 27 for booking tickets, read a press release on Saturday.
Passengers have to carry their previous tickets, passports and Saudi approval documents for the renewal of the tickets. Besides, first come first served policy will be followed in issuing tickets, the statement added.
On a separate note, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and his Saudi counterpart Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud will discuss bilateral and current issues over the phone on Sunday. The telephone conversation is scheduled to begin at 5pm, reports UNB.
The Saudi government on Wednesday responded positively to workers' issues ending barriers to their return to the workplaces in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). The Saudi returnee migrant workers have been agitating for tickets for the last few days as the flights are not available according to the number of returnees.
They feared about the visa and Iqama expiration issues, but the Saudi authority has extended the expiration date as per the request of Bangladesh's foreign ministry.
More than one lakh Bangladeshi migrants, who came to enjoy their leave, got stranded in the country amid Covid-19. Around 80% of them are Saudi returnees, according to Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies.