Finally, some really good news for hundreds of Saudi returnee migrant workers, who had been demonstrating for the last several days demanding air tickets in a desperate move to return to their workplaces before the expiry of their visas.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday evening said the Saudi government have agreed to extend visas for Bangladeshis who want to return to their workplaces in the Middle-Eastern country, reports UNB.
"Our Ambassador [Bangladesh Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dr Mohammad Javed Patwary] just phoned me conveying news of the positive outcome," he said.
The visa extension process for those whose visas have expired will start on Sunday, he continued. "Bangladesh workers' iqama will remain valid for 24 more days and if required there will be a further extension," he said.
Prior to this development, the Saudi government extended the validity of Iqama thrice for Bangladesh citizens who have been stranded in their home country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Momen also said the Saudi government has given landing permission to Biman Bangladesh Airlines, which will help in a smooth return of the Bangladeshi expatriates.
For its part, the Bangladesh government has given permission to all Saudi carriers to land here and take the Bangladeshi expatriate workers back to the KSA.
Meanwhile, a press release of Biman Bangladesh Airlines said on Wednesday, "Biman Bangladesh Airlines will operate Dhaka-Jeddah on September 26 and Dhaka-Riyadh on September 27 for the return ticket holders for March 16 and 17."
Passengers with return tickets for March 16 and 17 are requested to contact Biman sales offices on September 24 with tickets, passports and approval from apps/link specified in Saudi Arabia, etc, for booking on these flights," it added.
Other passengers will be notified for booking in stages subject to approval for new flights, the press release added.
Agitated migrants continue demonstration
Earlier on the day, agitated expatriates thronged the street in front of the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment at around 11 am to demand return tickets for Saudi Arabia.
Five representatives of the agitating workers met with the officials of the ministry. The ministry, however, sought time till Monday to resolve the crisis.
Md Riaz, a migrant worker, told The Business Standard that the ministry said it will update them on Monday about a solution to the problems faced by the expatriates.
Expatriates' Welfare Minister Imran Ahmed confirmed to the media about seeking time from the agitated workers.
On the fourth day of their ongoing demonstration, the agitated Saudi returnees continued their demonstrations for tickets in front of the Saudi Airlines office at Karwan Bazar in the capital on Wednesday.
Hundreds of workers were positioned for hours at the Karwan Bazar intersection.
Many workers said their visas would expire on September 30. They were desperate for tickets as they might lose jobs if they cannot reach their workplaces on time.
Regarding the demonstration of the expats at Karwanbazar, ASI Mahbubul Alam of Hatirjheel Thana said, "The returnee migrant workers tried to block the road, but we removed them. None among them was wounded."
Meanwhile, a Saudi Arabian Airlines flight, carrying about 252 expatriates, left Dhaka for Riyadh at midnight on Tuesday after a long suspension of flights amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Saudi Arabian Airlines has been given permission to operate as many flights as required to clear the huge backlog of flights of expatriates stranded in Bangladesh before their iqamas or visas expire on September 30.
On Monday, the Managing Director of Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Md Mokabbir Hossain, said the national flag carrier had got approval to operate flights to the kingdom from October 1.
More than one lakh Bangladeshi migrants have been stranded in the country during the Covid-19 crisis. Around 80% of them are Saudi returnees, according to Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies.