Shaheen Alam from Natore would work in a pipe welding factory in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
In January this year, he returned home to enjoy a two-and-half-month vacation. But he could not go back to his workplace after his holiday ended, owing to the suspension of flights, triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Eventually, his visa expired on 30 May, making his return to the destination country uncertain.
Shaheen now is struggling to make his five-member family's ends meet.
Not Shaheen alone, around 25,000 Malaysia returnees have remained stranded amid the pandemic and visas of around 90% of them have expired.
In such a situation, hundreds of returnees on Monday staged a demonstration in front of the foreign ministry, demanding that their visas be extended and return to workplaces be ensured.
"The Malaysian government now allows all types of visa holders except the working visa [temporary employment visit passes] to enter its country. But, 90% of us have lost our visa validities," said Nazmul Huda Chowdhury, a Malaysian returnee.
"Although some other migrant origin countries are negotiating with the Malaysian government on the visa extension issue, the Bangladesh government did not respond satisfactorily to the matter," he claimed.
"Earlier, we met three times with the officials of the expatriate welfare ministry, including the minister, Imran Ahmed. But the issue has not been resolved," he added.
Masud Ahmed, another Malaysia returnee, said, "I have run out of my savings. Now, I am bearing my family expenses by borrowing from others. We want a quick solution to this crisis."
Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), said, "The Malaysian authorities will not allow workers from those countries with more than 1.5 lakh Covid cases. If they do not allow the working visa holders, we will have to wait for solving this problem."
Expatriates and professional visit pass holders from 23 countries, including Bangladesh, in the enforced entry ban list drawn up by Malaysia are allowed to enter the country since 10 September.
The entry ban, which took effect on September 7, was imposed as the 23 countries had recorded a high number of Covid-19 cases.
An official of the Malaysian embassy in Dhaka told The Business Standard, "The students and professional visit pass-holders will have to obtain approval from the Immigration Department before they can enter the country. However, we have to wait for the entry permission from the authority of Temporary Employment Visit Passes (PLKS)."
Returnees stage seat-in programme
On Monday morning, several thousand Malaysia returnees staged a sit-in programme in front of the foreign ministry, demanding an extension to their visas and a return to Malaysia.
Later, they suspended their demonstration after Foreign Secretary Masood Bin Momen assured them of resolving the problems.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said, "We will sit with the Malaysian authorities as soon as possible and try to resolve the issues quickly."
Those whose visas and tickets have expired will be extended, and arrangements will be made so that they can go to Malaysia with the previous tickets. They will also take measures to send the expat returnees to Malaysia on a chartered flight.
He also said the Malaysia-bound stranded workers will also get assistance if government grants for expatriates are given.
The expatriates expect that the government will take steps to send workers to Malaysia very soon based as per the secretary's assurance of the secretary.
Around four lakh Bangladeshis are working in Malaysia, according to an unofficial estimate.