The Saudi Arabia-bound Bangladeshi migrant workers are facing unending sufferings in their struggle to return to workplaces due to various restrictions imposed to tackle the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
After struggling to get tickets for several days at the beginning of the ongoing countrywide lockdown, they are now facing difficulties in hotel booking for mandatory quarantine.
Several hundred Bangladeshis flocked in front of the Saudi Airlines office at Sonargaon Hotel in the capital on Saturday to book hotels in Saudi Arabia for seven-day quarantine which has been made mandatory recently by the Saudi government.
Although they had confirmed their Saudi Airlines tickets, they had not booked hotels in Saudi Arabia for quarantine.
The migrant workers claimed that despite having a hotel booking app, they are not being able to do it themselves, resulting in extra money being taken from them.
Since 20 May, the Saudi government has imposed some new restrictions to contain the spread of coronavirus. As per the new rules, Saudi-bound passengers, after entering into the country, will have to stay one week at holiday hotels designated by the Saudi government.
For this, outside the airfare, each of them will have to count Tk70,000 for the mandatory quarantine. If one does not abide by the condition of booking hotels before his flight, his ticket will be canceled and he will not get his money back.
Omar Khayyam, Manager (Sales), Saudi Airlines Dhaka Office, Told The Business Standard, "It takes time for passengers to adapt to any new rules. We are helping those who are unable to book hotels online for quarantine."
He said, "Hundreds of passengers have come in front of the airlines' office today. Although at first they raised a little hue and cry, later their demand is being met introducing two queues."
He categorically declined the allegation of taking extra money, saying, "There are arrangements to book quarantine hotels of different prices."
Meanwhile, due to the imposition of various conditions including hotel quarantine, Biman Bangladesh Airlines initially stopped flights to Saudi Arabia till 24 May, despite the Saudi Airlines continuing three flights a day.
Passengers heading to Saudi Arabia have been affected by the cancellation of Biman flights. They arrived at the airport on the morning of 20 May and waited for long but in vainand complained about Bangladesh Biman.
The passengers alleged that although the airline authorities were supposed to inform them earlier about the cancellation of the flight via SMS, Biman did not do so. On the other hand, Biman Bangladesh Airlines officials claimed that they had informed.
Meanwhile, expatriates who have already received the corona vaccine will need to bring with them the necessary proof of vaccination. Saudi authorities have said that they were spared from the mandatory hotel quarantine.
Around 22 lakh Bangladeshi are currently working in Saudi Arabia, according to an unofficial estimate.
Many of them were stranded at home, with expired visas, after coming to the country on leave amid covid-19 pandemic.
Gradually, they are leaving Bangladesh after reopening flights last year.