Migrants’ can't go abroad due to pandemic effects

ARAFAT ARA | Friday, 23 April 2021

The country's overseas job sector is facing a blow as the process to complete necessary formalities for sending thousands of workers abroad remained almost suspended due to the prolonged lockdown.

Sector insiders said the recruitment-related services were not available at different offices because of the lockdown. Besides, workers cannot move to complete necessary formalities for migration.

Manpower recruiters said that more than 100,000 demands of aspirant workers were under process before the start of the latest lockdown. Of the total, 70,000 to 80,000 demands came from Saudi Arabia and 40,000 from United Arab Emirates (UAE) while the rest from others countries.

But their activities stopped suddenly because of the lockdown, said Ali Haider Chowdhury, manpower recruiter and former secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA).

He said the recruitment-related services like pre-departure training, medical fitness certificates, police verification report and finger print remained almost stopped.

"So we cannot do visa related works," he said, adding that they have already entered into a deadlock like situation.

Mr Haider said that as the government has kept open the apparel sector, it could also keep the overseas employment sector outside the purview of lockdown.

Md Anowar Hossain, owner of Sun Shine Overseas, said he has 150 visas of migrant workers. But he was not being able to work on it.

Each of the workers spentTk 350,000 as migration cost. If the processing takes more time, the cost might increase further.

Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) suspended all international flights for a week beginning from April 14.

However, it later permitted operation of only special flights for carrying migrant workers to five job destination countries - SaudiArabia, the UAE, Qatar, Oman and Singapore - fromApril 17.

According to data from the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB), around 25,000 workers were scheduled to fly for their job destination countries in a week, but failed to go on time because of flight suspension.

Talking to The Financial Express, Rezaul Karim, director of immigration at Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), said their office remains open for a limited period due to the lockdown.

They wereissuing clearances to the workers who are scheduled to go to the five selected countries by April 28.

"We are also giving priority to the workers whose visa validity is set to expire soon," he added.

When asked, he said that it is very natural that a common loss will be occurred in the sector like other sectors. But the situation will gradually return to normal, he hoped.

The job destination countries also enforced travel ban on Bangladeshi nationals last year because of coronavirus outbreak. Movement of the workers remained halted for three months (April to June) last year following the suspension of the air flights.

But the countries opened their flights for Bangladeshi workers from July.

The BMET statistics showed that 146,895 workers have gone abroad since July last year. Some 35,732 workers went abroad in January this year while 49,510 in February and 61,653 in March.

More than 13 million Bangladeshis have gone abroad with jobs since 1976. Most of them went to the Middle East.

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