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Clouds of uncertainty engulf expats

Published : 27 Oct 2020 09:39 PM | Updated : 27 Oct 2020 11:23 PM

Saudi expatriates are still in uncertainty over returning to their workplaces amid fears of a second wave of the coronavirus in Bangladesh.

Newly-married Rubel Ahmed from Moulvibazar is supposed to return to Saudi Arabia after spending his holidays amid the coronavirus. He has already spent thousands of taka for a ticket to Saudi Arabia. His father gave him half of the money to return abroad, and his brother the other half. But Rubel is still in crisis now. In his words, ‘I see uncertainty. If I fail to get a ticket on time, my visa will expire’.

Many who came back home on holidays like Rubel Ahmed could not return. As a result, a lot of Saudi Arabia-bound expatriate workers are in a deep crisis over getting return tickets.

Besides, now it is not possible to send these workers abroad. As a result, 4 lakh workers are being deprived of going abroad in the last seven months.

Meanwhile, about 25,000 new visas obtained in Saudi Arabia before the epidemic have already expired, and been canceled. Saudi Arabia has asked these 25,000 workers to apply for visas by submitting new documents. Medical report and ‘Police Clearance’ certificates have to be submitted along with new documents. This has also created a new crisis for them.

Sources said about 80,000 workers were preparing to leave for Saudi Arabia before the corona lockdown began. Of these, 40,000 were ready for flight after all approvals. About 30,000 were waiting to go to other countries besides Saudi Arabia.

As the companies were closed during the epidemic, the workers lost their jobs and returned to the country. In addition, some countries have announced general amnesty for prisoners in their prisons. Some convicted Bangladeshis have returned from prisons.

The pandemic is predicted to prolong due to a second wave of the virus. As a result, the crisis of expatriate workers is intensifying. Workers are returning to their home country every day after losing jobs abroad.

Meanwhile, the Saudi government is taking steps to increase the Saudization level in all sectors of Saudi Arabia. This year, the country has made 70 percent Saudization mandatory in several other sectors. If the private sector is Saudized, millions of Saudi expatriate Bangladeshis will lose their jobs. Thus, due to the coronavirus, there is a recession in every sector in the whole of Saudi Arabia.

In fine, an uncertain situation has arisen in expatriate employment. The government thinks that if the pandemic does not let up, it will not be possible to send new workers abroad. The government is trying to rehabilitate the returning workers in the country.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus, 2 lakh 25 thousand Bangladeshis have returned to the country. Besides, before the epidemic, 50 to 60 thousand workers used to go abroad with jobs every month.

In this situation, the second wave of Covid-19 is expected to pose a new crisis. The second wave has already begun in Europe. Spain has imposed a curfew at night and a state of emergency during the day. The situation is similar in other European countries.

Stakeholders are hoping that the situation will improve if there is no second wave in Bangladesh's traditional labor market, including the Middle East. But it is not clear where the situation in Bangladesh is heading until the end of the winter season.

When asked, Md Shamsul Alam, director general of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) told Bangladesh Post, “More than two lakh workers have returned to the country in the last seven months. Before the pandemic, at least 3,000 workers went abroad every day, now going abroad has stopped. However, if the situation improves, it will be possible to overcome the crisis quickly. Besides, if it is not possible to send the returning workers back, necessary steps will be taken to rehabilitate them.”