Over 50,000 new workers bound for Saudi Arabia are now under stress over the reissuance of their visas and getting air tickets amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Around 86,000 fresh workers were scheduled to fly for their destination countries in the Middle East in March this year. More than 90% of them are newly recruited Saudi-bound workers, according to Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira).
But they had also been stranded along with the returnees because of flight suspensions amid the pandemic.
After a meeting on Wednesday with Saudi authorities, Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Momen said, "The Saudi ambassador told us they will reissue visas for around 25,000 newly recruited workers from Bangladesh."
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general at Baira, said, "We have heard about visa renewal of 25,000 newly recruited workers, but no one has contacted us yet. We do not know what will happen to the rest of the visas that agencies have. If those are not renewed, we will go bankrupt. How will we repay the money we have taken from employees?"
There are around 50,000 more Saudi-bound workers whose visas expired. "What will happen to them?" he questioned.
Meanwhile, the stranded Saudi returnees whose reentry visas expired are still in uncertainty. They said they cannot manage the required documents from their employers to extend the validity of their reentry visas. Some workers whose visas have not expired are now getting tickets.
Md Lokman, a Saudi returnee from Bhola said, "I have been struggling for my ticket for the last two weeks. Finally, I got my ticket on Friday from Saudi Airlines. My flight will be on October 8."
Saudi Airlines started issuing tickets at 9 am on Friday from their office at Hotel Sonargaon. The returnees with tokens numbered 1 to 200 received their tickets on the day.
On Wednesday, the foreign minister said from October 1, 20 more flights will be operated to Saudi Arabia – 10 of Saudi airlines, and 10 of the Biman Bangladesh Airlines.
Over 100,000 Bangladeshi migrants who returned from different countries have got stuck in the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Baira said around 80% of them work in Saudi Arabia.
According to data from the Dhaka airport, only 3,318 workers have gone to Saudi Arabia till Wednesday after flights reopened on September 23.