Dorm for expatriate workers: Good initiative that needs promotion
Expatriate workers usually come to Dhaka one of two days ahead of their flight abroad from different districts of the country.
However, only a handful of them can afford to stay at hotels near the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. Most of these people come from poverty-ridden backgrounds and are in a way forced to reside on the airport premises under horrible circumstances as they do not have family members in the capital.
As a result, they often have to live amid mosquito bites and cold or humid weather, depending on the season.
Taking heed of their plights, the Wage Earners Welfare Board under the Expatriate Welfare Ministry established Bangabandhu Wage Earners Center on 8,470-acre land near the Dhaka airport on the occasion of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's birth centenary.
Workers going abroad can stay at this residential facility before boarding their flight. Expatriate Welfare and Foreign Employment Minister Imran Ahmed inaugurated this centre on March 18, 2022.
Surprisingly, not many people know about this facility as it remains almost empty most of the time.
The place has been set up in a rural setting -- surrounded by greenery. Right in the middle, stands the two-storied building for the workers.
One needs to pay Tk 200 for one night's stay there. It has accommodation for 40 men and 9 women. But to avail the service, the workers need to register first. They can apply from the website of the wage earners board, or directly from the spot for Tk 100. A single worker can apply for one seat at a time and can stay for a maximum of two nights.
Service seekers are currently staying at the ground floor of the building. There are 10 rooms on this floor. Each room has four small-sized beds. The second floor is still out of service, as the number of applicants for the centre is yet not up to the mark, according to authorities.
Beside the building, there's a canteen, which has a big dining table. But the canteen still doesn't serve food. Rather, the authorities bring food from nearby hotels at a reasonable price for the guests.
In a recent visit, this correspondent only saw three people staying at the facility. The canteen was also closed.
Liton Miah was one of the guests. He had a flight to Dubai on December 31. He had been staying at this centre for two days as he didn't have any close relatives in Dhaka.
He said, "It's a good initiative for the expatriate workers. But initially I was unaware of the place. I came to know about it from a friend after I reached Dhaka."
During the conversation, Rajib Khan, who was planning to travel to Qatar on December 30, said, "I learned about the place from social media. I'm fully satisfied with their service."
"But most of us don't even know that this place exists in the first place. The authorities need to step up their publicity ," he added.
Moinal Hossain, who was planning to travel to Saudi Arabia on December 30, echoed the same.
Atikur Rahman, assistant caretaker of the place, told The Daily Star that about 500 expatriates have stayed at this centre in the last nine months.
He said many expatriates from the country and abroad are calling the designated phone number to stay at this centre.
"Hopefully, the number of guests will increase in the coming days," he said, adding that they will take steps to let people know about the facility.
Regarding the food facilities, he said, " If the number of service seekers increases, we will start our canteen."