3 lakh Bangladeshis yet to accept amnesty | The Daily Star
12:25 AM, June 28, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:44 AM, June 28, 2013

Foreign Workers In Saudi Arabia

3 lakh Bangladeshis yet to accept amnesty

Around three lakh irregular Bangladeshi workers in Saudi Arabia are yet to take advantage of an amnesty that expires on July 3.
“Some 2.12 lakh workers benefited from the amnesty until Tuesday.... We estimate three lakh more are yet to do so,” Emdadul Haque, labour minister of the Bangladesh embassy in Riyadh, told The Daily Star on Wednesday.
Declared in a royal decree last month, the amnesty allows irregular foreign workers to legalise their status, transfer jobs or return to the home country without facing any penalty.
It warned that the irregular migrants staying in the kingdom after the grace period would be fined heavily and jailed for two years.
“We are working day and night, with additional staff from Dhaka. We hope Saudi authorities will extend the grace,” the minister said, adding that an extension was crucial.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of irregular workers from different countries are worrying that they may miss the opportunity offered by the kingdom, which employs around 12 lakh Bangladeshis.
Saudi authorities had sent an SMS to workers' mobile phones a few days ago, saying the grace would not be extended, Bangladeshi migrant Mohammad Hanif, who had recently regularised his job, said on Wednesday.
“Therefore, the irregular workers fear a crackdown on them after the period,” he added.
On a recent visit to Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni requested that the grace be extended by three months. Some other Asian countries -- Pakistan, Indonesia, India and Nepal -- also made similar requests.
Saudi businesses are also strengthening their demands in this regard.
Emdadul told this correspondent over the phone, “I would request our people not to be afraid.”
Other Asian countries have around 65,000 workers to be accepting the amnesty. But the number of Bangladeshis is higher because they could not transfer their jobs or renew residency permits for the last five years, he explained.
Officials of the overseas employment ministry in Dhaka say there are two types of irregular workers in Saudi Arabia. Some have valid documents but work under employers who did not recruit them. This makes them illegal.
“Most of these workers have legalised their status,” Emdadul said.
“But the major problem is with those who ran away from their employers and no longer have passports or residency permits with them.”
Saudi labour ministry has submitted around 70,000 passports of such workers to the Bangladesh embassy, which is returning them to the respective workers so that they can apply for the amnesty.
Emdadul could not specify the number of Bangladeshis returning home under the amnesty, but hinted that it was somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000.

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