Migrants Quarantine in Saudi Arabia: Govt decides to share cost of hotel stay
The government has decided to pay up to Tk 25,000 for each Bangladeshi worker's stay in hotel in Saudi Arabia for their seven-day on-arrival institutional quarantine.
"The money will be provided from the wage earners' welfare fund," Expatriates' Welfare Secretary Ahmed Munirus Saleheen told The Daily Star over phone yesterday.
The lion's share of the fund comes from the Bangladeshis working in different countries across the world. The fund is looked after by a board of members from the expatriates' welfare ministry with the secretary in the chair.
Secretary Saleheen also said they were working to vaccinate all migrants leaving so that they no longer needed to stay in quarantine.
The development came nine days after Saudi Arabia issued a travel advisory on May 20 for non-restricted countries, including Bangladesh, making it mandatory for workers to stay in hotel quarantine for seven days.
The advisory caused huge sufferings to the migrant workers and casted uncertainty over their joining work in Saudi Arabia.
Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial meeting will be held today to discuss different issues, including exorbitant airfare for Middle East-bound workers, and vaccination of migrants departing, a top official of the expatriates' welfare ministry said.
More than a thousand Saudi-bound workers have already missed their flights in the last five days as they failed to book hotels for the quarantine, alleged the workers.
Biman took nine days to comply with the advisory. It resumed flights to the kingdom yesterday after nine days of suspension.
The quarantine, however, is not mandatory for those who have already taken two doses of Covid-19 vaccine of Pfizer, Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna and 14 days have passed since the administration of their second dose.
On Thursday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said having realised the problems being faced by the Saudi-bound migrants, the prime minister has instructed the foreign ministry to take initiatives for arranging the hotel bookings.
About providing financial support to the workers, Saleheen yesterday said if a migrant worker needs Tk 40,000 for the hotel stay, the ministry will give them Tk 20,000 in cash assistance.
The ministry will provide Tk 25,000 if anyone needs Tk 50,000 or more.
He said the financial assistance will also be provided to those who have already gone to Saudi Arabia after the travel advisory was issued.
In that case, the Bangladesh embassy in Saudi Arabia will verify the cost of their hotel stay and will hand the cash assistance to the Bangladeshis following verification, Ahmed Munirus Saleheen explained.
About vaccinating all migrant departing, Saleheen said they were working to figure out how this "huge task can be completed easily".
"We have asked the departing workers to apply for vaccination through the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training [BMET]," he added.
QUICK RESPONSE TEAM
In a press release yesterday, the ministry said a "quick response team" was formed to resolve on a priority basis different problems being face by migrant workers.
Arif Ahmed Khan, director, Wage Earners' Welfare Board (WEWB), has been made convener of the seven-member team, the release says.
Other members of the team are Senior Assistant Director Sarwar Alam of the ministry, Senior Statistical Officer Masud Rana of BMET, and WEWB's Deputy Director Zahid Anwar, Assistant Director Azizul Islam Bhuiyan, Deputy Assistant Director Abdul Quader, and Office Assistant/Computer Operator Mohammad Moniruzzaman.
Biman yesterday resumed its flight operation to Saudi Arabia in line with the new travel advisory issued by the Gulf country.
A top official of the national flag carrier told The Daily Star that the first flight left the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport for Dammam at 3:30pm and second flight to Jeddah at 6:15pm. The third flight to Riyadh was scheduled to fly at 3:20am.
He also said Biman was assisting Saudi-bound migrant workers in booking hotels.
On May 19, Biman said it primarily suspended all flights to Saudi Arabia for five days starting from May 20.
Biman later extended the suspension period for four more days as it failed to complete necessary measures to comply with the travel advisory, sources at the Biman said.
Biman currently operates flights to three destinations in Saudi Arabia. The destinations are Riyadh, Dammam and Jeddah. The airline operates 19 flights a week to these destinations.
Saudi Arabia is the largest destination for Bangladesh migrants. At least 26 lakh expatriates are currently working in different sectors in the country.