Several thousand Bangladeshis have been stranded in nine Middle East countries amid suspension of air communications to and from Dhaka for containing Covid-19 spread over the last two weeks.
Of them, at least 1,000 are stuck in Saudi Arabia; many of them went there to perform Umrah, said Golam Moshi, Bangladesh ambassador in the Gulf country.
The eight other countries are Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt. The Bangladeshis went there for business, travel and other purposes.
Talking to this newspaper over phone on Monday night, Moshi said as most of these nations have imposed restrictions to different extents including lockdown, it has become very difficult to communicate with the stranded Bangladeshis.
Many of the Bangladeshis must be passing days in hardship as they are running out of money, he also said.
According to worldmeters.info, the nine nations saw nearly 5,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 73 fatalities as of Monday.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, the authorities in the countries took some unprecedented measures to contain the virus transmission.
They include curfew, countrywide shutdown, ban on commercial passenger flights, closure of land borders, suspension of on-arrival and tourist visas and ban on cruise ship docking.
Some of these countries have also deployed security forces to strictly enforce law, aiming at preventing unwanted movements of citizens.
Bangladesh took took some precautionary measures to contain the virus transmission.
Amid this situation, Saudi government has informed Bangladesh embassy to collect detailed information of stranded Bangladeshis in the Kingdom so that it can arrange chartered flights to ferry them to Dhaka, Moshi said.
"But in the current situation, it is difficult to communicate with them," he added.
Many such stranded Bangladeshis are going through financial hardship in other Arab countries as well, said Moshi, also Bangladesh's permanent representative to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
He added that he sent messages about them to officials concerned in Bangladesh government.
According to the ambassador, some five million Bangladeshis are living in the nine countries.
Many of the Bangladeshis who went to Saudi Arabia for performing Umrah saw their visas got expired as such visas are issued for only 15 days.
As a precautionary measure, Dhaka imposed a ban on passenger flights to 10 countries including six Gulf Cooperation Council member states from March 22 to March 31. Later, it extended the suspension till April 7.
Earlier on March 17, 409 Bangladeshis were brought back from KSA by a special flight.
Bangladeshis usually travel to Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt using Saudi Arabia or Dubai as transit since Bangladesh does not have direct air communications with the three Arab countries, according to sources.
M Shahadat Hossain, president, Hajj Agencies Association of Bangladesh (HAAB), said they have information that several thousand Bangladeshi are stranded in different Gulf countries.
"We wrote to different airlines who took the Bangladeshis requesting them to arrange accommodation and food for the stranded Bangladeshis until they return," he added.