The government has decided to bring back some expatriate Bangladeshi workers who are in difficult situations overseas, amid the evolving situation over the coronavirus pandemic.
The decision was taken at an inter-ministerial meeting held at the expatriates' welfare ministry yesterday, says a press release.
Some 316 Bangladeshis will be brought back from Kuwait, said Expatriates' Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad, who chaired the meeting.
At the meeting, a proposal was also made to send relief materials and food on the return flight, he said.
On the other hand, the government will arrange a chartered flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines to carry 150 workers under employment permit system (EPS) and 26 students to South Korea, the minister said.
"The government has taken all kind of measures to support expatriate Bangladeshis currently staying abroad including food, treatment and overall protection," he added.
For this, about Tk 4.5 crore has been allocated for the Bangladesh missions abroad, he further said.
Imran said the government was making a diplomatic push to extend visas and work permits of Bangladeshi workers in the respective countries.
Besides, in case any worker loses their job, efforts are on from the government's side so that they do not have to return home, but can be employed at other companies in the same country, he also said.
Furthermore, Bangladeshi missions have been asked to provide necessary support to expatriates if they face problems regarding accommodation, said the minister.
The expatriates' welfare minister also said a decision was taken to send letters signed by him and the foreign minister to different relevant ministries of overseas countries.
Addressing the meeting, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said some expatriates are being brought back home following requests made by different countries.
As a result, labour diplomacy with those countries will be stronger and Bangladesh will get priority in case of labour recruitment, he said.
"Expatriates are assets to the country. It is our moral duty to stand by their side amid the current crisis," he also said.
Emerging from the meeting, the foreign minister told reporters that four to five countries including the Maldives have reached out to Bangladesh to take back undocumented nationals from their respective countries, reports UNB.
He said the government will take steps case by case, considering the ground reality.
Dr Momen said though the number of countries which came up with the request is few, but it is pressure on the government at this critical moment.
"We are under pressure to some extent. All the countries are under pressure," he told reporters.
Dr Momen hoped that the move will not cause any problems in relations with those countries from where workers are being brought back, and steps are being taken to further strengthen relations with them.
He said the foreign minister of Maldives had a phone conversation with him, where he conveyed the situation about the undocumented Bangladesh nationals.
The Maldives foreign minister highlighted the downfall of tourism business and closure of restaurants there, and assured his Bangladesh counterpart of taking good care of the documented nationals.
Maldives initially urged the undocumented nationals to get registered, he said. "We don't think all will return."
Dr Momen did not want to mention the names of other countries and total number of undocumented nationals in those four to five countries.
At the meeting, Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said expatriate Bangladeshis will be brought back maintaining due scrutiny.
However, a separate decision can be taken for those expatriates who will be found involved in serious crimes, he said.
The returning expatriates will be sent to mandatory quarantine, he also said.