Several lakh Bangladeshi migrants in Saudi Arabia will be considered illegal workers if they fail to obtain machine readable passports (MRPs) before November 24, 2015, said officials at the Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh.
In consequence, they will not be able to transfer work permits to change their professions, and may also face deportation, a senior official of the embassy told The Daily Star, preferring not to be named.
As many as two million Bangladeshis are working in different sectors in the Middle Eastern country, according to statistics of the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training.
“The issuing of MRPs for the huge number of people is being hampered due to an acute shortage of manpower. We fear a large number of them will not be able to obtain MRPs before the deadline,” said the senior embassy official.
The deadline has been set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation that made MRPs mandatory for all nationalities across the world.
The embassy in Riyadh is now completing procedures for MRPs of only 700 to 1,000 migrants a day while it needs to process a minimum of 8,000 to 10,000 applications to meet the deadline, embassy officials said.
It has been trying within its capacity to serve the highest number of migrants, said Bangladesh Ambassador in Riyadh Shahidul Islam. “We are doing well regarding the issuing of MRPs for our people. But we feel we need to do more,” he told The Daily Star.
Necessary documents are filled in from Riyadh and Jeddah for MRPs of Saudi migrants, he said, adding that officials from both offices of the mission also went to major cities of Saudi Arabia on holidays to serve Bangladeshis.
The documents with necessary information are then sent to Bangladesh for MRPs to be issued to the migrant workers.
“We have already completed the procedure for MRPs of five lakh migrants. We hope all migrants will obtain MRPs before the deadline,” Shahidul said.
He, however, said sufficient manpower would have eased the process.
Meanwhile, the government signed an agreement with two companies of Saudi Arabia and Malaysia on July 21 to complete the MRP venture for Bangladeshis in Saudi Arabia, said Shafiqul Islam, additional secretary (security and immigration) of the home ministry.
“We hope our people won't face trouble as we have decided on outsourcing the venture to provide rapid services to the migrants,” he said.
The outsourcing companies will accomplish the task by setting up mobile offices across the Middle Eastern country as Bangladeshis are working in different parts of the kingdom, Shafiqul added.