Migrant workers are still facing a lot of difficulties booking hotels to undergo mandatory quarantine in Saudi Arabia, as the Saudi airlines is no longer offering any support regarding this issue.
Many workers failed to book their quarantine hotels, and therefore missed their flights on 25-26 May, several Saudi-bound migrants told The Business Standard.
Under such circumstances, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on Thursday said the government will help Bangladeshi expatriates get accommodation in hotels for their mandatory quarantine in Saudi Arabia.
"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed us to help expatriates get hotel accommodation," the minister told reporters, adding that Biman Bangladesh Airlines or the Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment will make a list of Saudi-bound Bangladeshis.
The Bangladesh Mission in Saudi Arabia will help them get hotel rooms. And if necessary, the ministry will also subsidise their expenses if it is too high, he added.
The minister then said, "Under a special arrangement, there is a proposal to vaccinate expatriates who are aged 20 years or above and bound for Middle Eastern countries such as Saudi Arabia, so that they can avoid the mandatory quarantine.
"We will discuss it tomorrow [Friday]. We are thinking of it. Let us see."
Never-ending suffering of workers
A Saudi bound worker named Tajul Islam said he was supposed to board a Saudia airlines flight on Wednesday night, but he missed it as he failed to book a hotel in that country.
Providing more details, Tajul said, "At first, Saudia airlines officials told us to bring Tk60,000 to book a hotel room a day before the flight date. After visiting the Saudia office in Dhaka's Karwan Bazar, they told me to book a hotel room in Saudi Arabia through Kaphil or my travel agent.
"When I contacted my Kaphil, he advised me to book a hotel room from Bangladesh. But I could not get a room, and missed my flight as a result."
Several thousand Saudi-bound Bangladeshi migrant workers are facing untold difficulties due to the new travel advisory introduced by Saudi Arabia, making it mandatory to have medical insurance against Covid-19 and hotel reservations for seven days of institutional quarantine.
The Saudi authorities also said violators will be deported and banned from entering the Middle Eastern country indefinitely. The fresh travel advisory came into effect on 20 May, and the Saudi airlines assisted workers in booking their hotels until 24 May.
Last Saturday, Saudi Airlines Dhaka Office's Manager (Sales) Omar Khayyam had told The Business Standard, "We are helping those who are unable to book hotel rooms online or through their agents."
But on 25 May, the airline authorities hung a notice at different areas of their office premises, informing that Saudi-bound migrant workers will have to book their hotel rooms themselves using specific apps.
In its notice, Saudia asked all Saudi-bound Bangladeshi workers to book quarantine hotels a minimum of 72 hours before their flight's departure through the Saudia Holidays website holidaysbysaudia.com.
For hotel booking confirmation, Saudi-bound passengers were also instructed to contact their respective employer/Kaphil/company/travel agency, or visit the website. "Without booking through Saudia Holidays website, no hotel confirmation will be accepted," the notice reads.
The Biman Bangladesh Airlines' Deputy General Manager Tahera Khandaker said they are assisting passengers to book hotel rooms.
According to the Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies, more than 30,000 Saudi-bound expatriate workers are waiting to go to Saudi Arabia in the next one month after completing their visa procedures and with confirmed tickets.
Due to complications in the hotel room booking process, many migrant workers might be unable to reach Saudi Arabia in time.