Private migrant worker recruiters have demanded vaccines for them to save money on hotel quarantine required in a destination country.
Prioritising the vaccination of migrant workers traveling to Saudi Arabia can save Tk350crore, said the Sammilito Somonnoy Parishad, a lobby platform of private recruiters, at a press conference on Wednesday at the Dhaka Reporters' Unity.
They also demanded that the authorities keep air ticket prices stable and more reasonable.
"Around 50,000 Saudi-bound workers with new work visas have been waiting to go to their workplaces. They have to maintain a seven-day hotel quarantine in the destination country that will cost around taka 70,000 per worker," said Abul Bashar, former president of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira).
"These migrant workers could have saved at least Tk350 crore in one and a half months had they not had to pay quarantine fees and the government prioritised innoculating them for Covid-19," he said.
Although the government has agreed to pay a Tk25,000 subsidy towards quarantine fees, migrant workers still have to pay the rest and high airfare which is a burden for them, he added.
Last month, the biggest job market for Bangladeshi migrant workers, Saudi Arabia, issued a travel advisory requiring passengers from non-restricted countries like Bangladesh, to be vaccinated to avoid a seven-day institutional quarantine in the kingdom.
High ticket prices add to migrant woes
All local and foreign airlines operating international flights have doubled or tripled ticket prices in the course of the pandemic, giving rise to migrant worker travel costs from Bangladesh, according to the manpower recruiters.
They said migration costs would have been less if ticket prices were more reasonable.
Recruiting agency owners said there is no reason for increasing ticket prices when migrant workers from other countries like Nepal, India, and Pakistan are not facing this problem.
"A Saudi Arabia-bound worker has to pay around Tk70,000 or 80,000 for a ticket, which was Tk25,000-30,000 before the advent of Covid-19. It is much the same for migrant workers going to other Middle Eastern countries," said Shahadat Hossain, managing director of 4-site International.
The high airfare is discouraging migrant workers, he added.