A group of manpower recruiting agencies today demanded that migrant workers be given Covid-19 vaccine on a priority basis to save the money spent on hotel quarantine.
Priority-based inoculation of migrant workers travelling to Saudi Arabia can save up to Tk350 crore, said Sammilita Somonnoy Parishad, a platform of the private recruiters.
They also asked for air ticket prices to be kept stable. They made the demands at a press conference today in Sagor-Runi Auditorium of Dhaka Reporters' Unity.
"Around 50,000 Saudi-bound workers with new work visas have been waiting to go to their respective workplaces and they will have to maintain a seven-day mandatory hotel quarantine upon reaching the country. This will cost each worker around Tk70,000," said Abul Bashar, former president of Baira (Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies).
"In just one-and-a-half months, these migrant workers travelling to Saudi Arabia could have saved at least Tk350 crore spent as quarantine fees had the government prioritised inoculating them against Covid-19," he added.
"Although the government has agreed to pay Tk25,000 to subsidise quarantine fees, migrant workers will still have to pay the rest of the amount as well as the high airfare."
Last month, Saudi Arabia, the biggest labour market for Bangladeshi migrant workers, in a travel advisory, asked passengers from non-restricted countries, including Bangladesh, to be vaccinated to avoid the seven-day institutional quarantine upon arrival.
High ticket prices add to migrants' woes
All local and foreign airlines operating international flights from Bangladesh have doubled or tripled ticket prices amid the pandemic, resulting in a rise in migration costs, according to manpower recruiters.
Some owners of recruiting agencies said there was no rationale for the increase in ticket prices as migrants from other South Asian countries (i.e. Nepal, India, and Pakistan) are not facing this problem.
"A Saudi Arabia-bound worker has to pay around Tk70,000-80,000 for a ticket, which was around Tk25,000-30,000 in the pre-pandemic period. The situation is quite similar for workers migrating to other Middle Eastern countries," said Shahadat Hossain, managing director of 4-site International.
"Such high airfare is very disappointing for aspirant migrant workers," he added.