We are relieved to learn that the Saudi government has finally agreed to extend visas for the Bangladeshis who returned home on holiday but could not go back to the kingdom due to the pandemic and the subsequent suspension of flights in March. According to the foreign minister, our migrant workers could get their expired visas renewed at the Saudi embassy in Bangladesh from Sunday and their work permits (aqama) would remain valid until October 17. The minister also said that the Saudi returnees can now return to the kingdom by all Saudi airlines and Bangladesh Biman flights.
Around 35,000 Bangladeshi migrants were worried that they would lose their jobs if they could not return to Saudi Arabia by September 30, when their visas and work permits were supposed to expire. Now that their visas and validity of work permits have been extended, we hope our government will take all the steps to send them back to the kingdom. It is good to know that Saudia Airlines has already started regular flights to and from Dhaka and the first flight carried around 255 Bangladeshis to Saudi Arabia. However, according to the officials of the Saudi Arabian Airlines, only around 800 more would be able to go to the country on these twice-a-week flights by September 30. And even if Biman starts its four weekly flights to the kingdom, it would not be possible for all the migrants to return to work before October 17.
Therefore, for all our migrant workers to return to the KSA on time, either the two airlines will have to run more flights or other carriers will have to be given permission to operate flights. As Saudia Airlines has already sought permission to operate more flights, we think it should be given the go-ahead. Also, our government should put pressure on the Saudi government to extend the validity of visas and work permits by at least three months so that none of our workers remain stranded at home. Besides, our government must also help the migrants in submitting the necessary documents, including Covid-19 certificates, so that they do not have to face unnecessary trouble while travelling to the country.