Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen has requested his Saudi Arabian counterpart Faisal Bin Farhan Al- Saud to increase flights from Dhaka, as many Bangladeshi expatriates are yet to get their tickets for returning to their workplaces in the middle-eastern country.
During the telephonic conversation on Sunday afternoon, the Bangladesh foreign minister thanked the Saudi government for extending the validity of iqama (work permit) and visa of the stranded Bangladeshi expatriates, and for allowing Biman flights to the country in this critical time.
He also requested the Saudi authorities to allow Biman to operate flights on the Dhaka-Dammam route. Biman currently operates flights to Riyadh, Medina and Jeddah in the Gulf country.
Meanwhile, the stranded Saudi returnees on Sunday continued to struggle in front of offices of Saudi Arabian Airlines and Biman Bangladesh Airlines in the capital for their return tickets.
Many of them even gathered in front of the Saudi embassy in Gulshan to renew their visas, but the embassy has selected 18 consultancy firms to complete the process.
In the meantime, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (Caab) has given permission to Saudi Arabian Airlines to operate two more flights a week from Dhaka to Saudi Arabia from October 1.
"Saudia sought our permission to operate two more weekly flights and we have given them the permission," an official of Caab told The Business Standard over phone.
Earlier last week, Caab Chairman Air-Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman said Bangladesh was ready to give permission to other Saudi carriers to operate flights from Dhaka to carry Bangladeshi expatriate workers to Saudi Arabia.
Expats' gatherings for tokens, tickets
Saudi Airlines sold tickets for the fourth consecutive day to help Saudi returnee expatriates return to their workplaces.
People who had already got their tokens collected tickets on Sunday morning.
On the day, tickets were given to those who held tokens numbered 1,401-1,900, while those with tokens numbered 1,901-2,300 will get theirs on Monday.
However, many people gathered in front of the office of the airlines for tokens.
Abdul Karim, a Saudi returnee, told The Business Standard, "I have come to the airline's office for the third day in a row. Although the officials asked me to come on October 4, I have come with a hope to get a token."
Sultana Jahan, sub inspector and duty officer of Hatirjheel police station, said, "Hundreds of expatriates took position in front of the airline's office since 8 am on Sunday. It created a crowd and obstructed vehicular movement in the area. However, the duty police controlled the situation."
Saudi Airlines started to issue tickets for Bangladeshi expatriates on Thursday morning, a day after migrant workers demonstrated in Dhaka for return tickets to Saudi Arabia.
"We have not been informed about any road blockade," she added.
Meanwhile, many Saudi returnee expatriates crowded in front of Biman's office in the capital's Motijheel on the day for their return tickets.
Expatriate Akhter Hossain told The Business Standard that he had been coming to the Biman office for the last five days for tickets.
He said he came to Dhaka to know when the ticket would be issued. He came to Dhaka from Chandpur knowing that. "I think many of the expatriates present here do not know the correct information," he said.
Stranded Saudi returnees started demonstrations for tickets on September 16. Many of them are yet to get their tickets due to a shortage of flights.
Meanwhile, Biman Bangladesh Airlines on Sunday requested the Jeddah-bound passengers who previously bought tickets for flights between March 22 and April 8 to contact its sales offices in phases from September 28 to October 2 to book their tickets for the flights scheduled for September 30-October 6.
Riyadh-bound passengers who previously bought tickets for flights between March 22 and March 30 are requested to contact its sales offices in phases from September 29 to October 4 to book their tickets for the flights scheduled for October 2 to October 11.
Meanwhile, Dammam-bound passengers who previously bought tickets for flights between March 16 and March 30 are asked to contact in phases from September 28 to October 1 to book their tickets for the flights scheduled for October 1 to October 5.
Passengers were also advised to bring passports, tickets and approval from Saudi Arabia-designated link or apps.
Other passengers will also be informed gradually, depending on permission for more flights, Biman said.
It also said the passengers also need to collect mandatory Covid-19 test certificates and they must fly to Saudi Arabia within 48 hours after giving their samples for the tests. So, the passengers should act accordingly, it added.
For details, expats were requested to visit link: https://www.biman-airlines.com/news
18 firms permitted to renew visas
Many expatriates on Sunday gathered in front of the Saudi Arabia Embassy in the capital's Gulshan to apply for visa renewal.
However, the Saudi consulate said the expatriates will have to apply for visa renewal through 18 authorised visa processing agencies.
Al-Mahmud Consultancy is one of them.
Wahidul Hasan, an official of the firm, told The Business Standard, "As per the directives of the Saudi embassy in Dhaka, we are currently renewing visas only for those who have iqama."
The government on September 23 said the Saudi government agreed to extend iqama and visas for 24 days for Bangladeshis who returned home on holidays but could not go back to the kingdom due to the pandemic.
On the issue, Wahidul said, "The returnees whose iqama has expired will have to contact their employers. After getting proper documents, we will issue visas to them."
Over 100,000 Bangladeshi expats have got stuck here after returning from abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic. Around 80% of them are Saudi returnees, according to Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies.