The Saudi Embassy in Dhaka is now issuing visas to as many as 4,000 Bangladeshis every day thanks to the improved Covid situation in Dhaka, speedy virus recovery of the oil-enriched economy and extended quota facility for Bangladeshi workers.
Saudi Ambassador to Bangladesh Essa Yousef Essa Al Duhailan Tuesday told a programme in Dhaka that the Saudi embassy recently issued the highest 8,600 visas to Bangladeshis on a single day as the Covid situation is becoming normal.
According to Bangladeshi manpower recruiters to the country, around 4,000-6,000 Bangladeshis on an average used to receive Saudi visas from the embassy per day before the pandemic.
While handing over 15 lakh doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to Bangladesh as a gift, the ambassador said quarantine is not required for Bangladeshis if they are immunised with four vaccines – Oxford-AstraZeneca, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson and Johnson – approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Migrants who got the Chinese shots would require a booster dose of the above four to enter the country.
However, the ambassador said he will write to the Saudi government to consider approving the Chinese vaccines that dominate mass inoculation in Bangladesh.
The oil-enriched country in July increased the quota for Bangladeshi workers at all Saudi firms to 40% from the previous 25% - prompting huge demand for Bangladeshi workers in that country.
Besides, the Gulf country is witnessing a speedy pandemic recovery, buoyed by a global oil price hike, that leads to the recruitment of more migrant workers.
Currently, around 25 lakh Bangladeshis are working in Saudi Arabia, according to an unofficial estimate.
In January-October this year, the country generated nearly 3 lakh jobs that accounted for 78% of all overseas jobs available to Bangladeshi workers.
Yet not enough
Bangladeshi manpower recruiters said the visa issuance by the Saudi embassy in Dhaka is not enough against the huge labour demand in the Gulf country.
"Before the pandemic, we could submit an unlimited number of passports on any working day, but now the embassy enlisted recruiters can submit a limited number of passports once a week," said Tipu Sultan, proprietor of recruiting agency Rajdhani International.
He also complained that half of the passports they submit are being returned without visas, slowing down the migration from Bangladesh.
Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, former secretary-general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), said, "Now with the virus situation almost normalised, we need more visa issuance by the embassy to deal with the growing labour demand in Saudi Arabia."
Of some 2,000 recruiters, Noman said around 700 recruiting agencies are enlisted with the Saudi embassy in Dhaka. He urged the embassy to enlist more recruiters to speed up the labour export.
The oil-enriched country recruited 51,472 Bangladeshis in October, up from 44,985 in June. In November, the number of Bangladeshis, particularly for cleaning and construction jobs, flying to Saudi Arabia is expected to stand at 40,000-50,000.
Booster shots likely after mass vaccination: Minister
In a separate development Tuesday, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said the government is likely to roll out booster shots after the majority of people receive their two doses.
"We'll think about rolling out booster shots if needed," he said while replying whether Saudi-bound workers will qualify for booster doses now.
The minister said the government will take measures after consulting with the technical committee on vaccination and the national advisory committee on Covid.
"We will try to prioritise the vulnerable groups for the boosters, following the recommendation of the committees."