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The Financial Express

Bangladesh expats in limbo for work freeze

ARAFAT ARA | Published: March 25, 2020 09:16:48 | Updated: March 29, 2020 19:16:10


Reuters file photo used only for representation Reuters file photo used only for representation

Bangladeshi workers staying abroad are having a tough time for a freeze in their economic activity due to the outbreak of coronavirus at their receiving countries.

The operatives on a daily basis face more trouble as they have no contingency fund to meet their daily expenses, according to the workers and their families.

Because of a nationwide curfew imposed by Saudi Arabia on Monday, workers at informal sectors are facing more difficulties, they said.

The oil-rich country has made the move to prevent the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus disease, COVID-19, there.

Meanwhile, migrant rights campaigners have suggested that the Bangladesh mission offices abroad offer counseling and other health services to the workers.

They also expressed worries over the pathetic situation the undocumented workers are in now as they usually have no access to official services.

More than 10 million Bangladeshis are working in 174 countries globally, with over 80 per cent staying in the Middle East.

But most of the Middle-Eastern countries got infected with the killer corona pathogen in February.

Prince Gilman, a Bangladeshi migrant in Saudi Arabia, is in great trouble as his company was closed seven days back following an official order to check the transmission of coronavirus.

"Although our company has made a promise to provide us salaries, I'm felling uncertain of some sort," he said.

According to Mr Gilman, migrants are living like hostages as the Saudi authorities called a curfew with effect from Monday.

Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Programme (OKUP) chairman Shakirul Islam said the families of the Bangladesh migrants are regularly updating them about their near and dear ones staying abroad.

The workers are facing economic hardship as well as running the risk of being contaminated with the deadly corona microbes, he said. Their families are also passing through hard times as they cannot remit money back home, Mr Islam mentioned.

In this situation, mission officials should provide required services for the workers.

Rashida Aktar, wife of a migrant worker, said she is now very tense as her husband cannot send money home.

"If the epidemic prolongs, we will fall into great trouble imaginable," she said, lamenting her fate.

Mr Aktar's husband is also in an uncertainty about his job and salary.

Shariful Islam Hasan, head of BRAC's migration programme, also recognised the need to cooperate with workers by Bangladesh missions.

arafat_ara@hotmail.com

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