Migrant workers demonstrate for air ticket to KSA
Migrant workers demonstrate in front of Saudi Airlines office at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the capital on Tuesday, causing traffic congestion in Karwan Bazar intersection.
Staff Reporter :
Hundreds of expatriate Bangladeshis employed in Saudi Arabia but currently stranded at home for months amid the coronavirus pandemic demonstrated in front of Saudi Airlines office in the capital's Karwan Bazar area on Tuesday morning following crisis of air tickets.
They took part in the demonstration at 8am demanding tickets to Saudi Arabia so that they can join their workplaces.
Traffic movement at the busy Sonargaon hotel intersection came to a halt for an hour as the agitated expatriate workers took to the street, witnesses said.
They, however, cleared the road as police officials assured them of resolving their issues through discussion with Saudi Airlines' officials.
At least 30,000 Bangladeshi expatriate workers are waiting to return to their workplaces in Saudi Arabia, said an official of Saudi Airlines.
He said the expatriates have been facing difficulties flying to their destinations due to limited access to air tickets. "The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) initially gave us permission to operate only two flights weekly from Dhaka which is inadequate considering the huge number of passengers. We have already applied to CAAB to increase number of flights so that we can accommodate more Bangladeshi workers," the Saudi Airlines official told The New Nation on condition of anonymity.
He also said visas of most of the 30,000 workers waiting to return to Saudi Arabia will expire on September 30. That's why there is a huge rush for tickets at present. "We are trying our best to resolve the crisis. We will give priority to issue tickets to those whose visas will expire on September 30, added the official.
Jahed Hasan, who came from Bhola, told this correspondent that he was scheduled to return to Saudi Arabia on March 20. But he could not return due to suspension of flight operations from middle of March following global Covid-19 pandemic.
"The Saudi authority extended my visa till September 30. But I couldn't confirm my return ticket
in the last two days. I will lose my job if I can't go to Saudi Arabia by then," he said.
Ariful Hasan, who came from Sonargaon, Narayanganj, also said he has been trying to confirm his return ticket for the last two days but to no avail. This correspondent talked to several others who echoed the same.
Bangladeshi expatriate workers have been flocking to the Saudi Arabian Airlines office for tickets for the last three days. They were seen waiting -- from dawn to dusk -- in front of Saudi Airlines office to confirm their tickets.
Several workers complained that the Saudi Airlines authorities are charging additional Tk 25,000 to re-issue tickets.
Abdus Salam said, "We have our return tickets. Now, why are they charging us such a big amount of money for reissuing tickets?"
At the same time, several people alleged that tickets are being sold at high price.
Biman Managing Director and CEO Mokabbir Hossain said the national flag carrier is scheduled to resume its flight to Saudi Arabia on October 1 while Saudi Airlines is scheduled to resume its flight from Dhaka today.
Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich Gulf nation, is the most popular destination for migrant workers from Bangladesh. Last year, Bangladeshi migrants sent a total of US$18.355 billion as remittance. Of the amount, $3.647 billion (19.87 per cent) were sent from Saudi Arabia.