Bangladesh to operate special flights to carry overseas workers

The government has decided to operate special flights to five countries for carrying Bangladeshi overseas workers amid the lockdown imposed on Wednesday to stem the spread of Coronavirus.

“Special flights will be arranged for the overseas workers who have got stuck in the country following the government’s strict lockdown. Bangladeshi workers who work in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Oman, Qatar and Singapore can leave the country under the special arrangements,” Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas EmploymentMinister Imran Ahmad told UNB on Wednesday.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) will formulate a work plan in this regard, Imran Ahmad said.

Replying to a question when the special flight operation will begin, the minister said, “It can be said that the decision is almost final as we held two meetings on Tuesday and Wednesday. There’ll be another meeting on Thursday where the process of operating flights will be finalised.”

The five countries are still open for Bangladesh as there is no problem in those countries, he said.

Responding to another question, the minister said, “The recruiting agencies concerned are responsible for bringingthe overseas workers with negative Covid-19 certificates to the airport and they’ll have to follow health guidelines as well.”

“The Bangladeshi expatriates can also return home only for emergency needs after collecting their release ordersfrom Bangladesh missions and complying with quarantine conditions with Covid-19 negative certificates,” said Imran.

Answering a query about how many workers have got stuck, the minister said: “It’s difficult to say about the exact number but it might be 25000-30,000 as the recruiting agencies claim. The number may go up to 1 lakh when we’lllaunch the special flights.”

President of the Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) Mansur Ahmed said, “We’ve urged the government to take necessary steps to operate international flights to continue the travel of the expatriate workers and new visa holders. We made the demand at a press briefing on Tuesday.”

The government suspended the operation of all the domestic and international passenger flights to restrict the spread of coronavirus in the country.

“Many Bangladeshi expatriates, including workers, returned home on leave while many came to deal withemergency family affairs, and they’re still there in Bangladesh. Following the government’s [lockdown] decision,they’ve got stuck. Among them, the visas of many are going to expire soon, while many new visa-holders are eagerly waiting with air tickets to leave the country. If they fail to go back in time, then their visas might be cancelled by their employers,” said the ATAB president.

He also urged the Prime Minister to resume the operation of international flights to some other countries, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, taking into account the situation of the expatriates.

On Tuesday, Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (Baira) held a press briefing urging the government to take effective measures to operate international flights.

In a written statement, Baira said there is no impact of Covid-19 on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other Middle East countries, and those countries even did not issue any ban on the travel of migrant workers. “So, the decision of the government is illogical. As a result, the workers and recruiting agencies are set to suffer huge financial losses.”

The government has enforced a fresh strict lockdown across the country for eight days from Wednesday in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly Coronavirus.

Bangladesh to operate special flights to carry overseas workers

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