Migrants Going Abroad: Their pleas finally heard
Mohiuddin Belal, an engineer based in UAE, heaved a sigh of relief on August 4 when he heard that his host country had lifted the flight ban from Bangladesh after about three months.
But his elation was short-lived: the Gulf state has made negative result from a PCR test done six hours before departure compulsory for entry.
Such a rapid test result is possible if there are testing facilities at the airports. But none of the Bangladeshi airports has them -- yet.
Belal is not alone.
More than 20,000 UAE residents from Bangladesh, including migrant workers and professionals, are unable to re-join their workplaces after the UAE had imposed a flight ban on May 12 following a huge spike in cases in the preceding weeks and the emergence of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus, he says.
"The visas of many expatriates have expired. Many more will face a similar fate if it takes more time to set up the facilities," Belal added.
This leaves the expatriate Bangladeshis in the UAE, who sent home about 10 percent of the $24.8 billion of remittance the country received last fiscal year, at the risk of losing their jobs.
"Some other countries who are in the UAE's restricted list have already set up the PCR labs, but ours is yet to come through," said Salauddin, another engineer in the UAE stranded in Bangladesh for several months now.
The UAE has made the rapid PCR test result mandatory for passengers flying in from Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Uganda, Vietnam, Zambia and Indonesia.
Of them, only Bangladesh and Nigeria are yet to set up the testing facilities at the airports.
Most of the stranded expatriates, including traders and workers, have already been inoculated with the full dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. "It is because of the rapid PCR test that we cannot fly," Salauddin added.
"We want the RT-PCR labs to be set up at the shortest possible time," Belal said.
Yesterday, the stranded UAE residents staged a sit-in in front of the National Press Club in the capital. This comes after they formed human chains, held press conferences and submitted memorandums to the government to press home their demand.
Their demands were finally heard as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the cabinet meeting yesterday ordered immediate arrangements for PCR testing at the three international airports.
"Precise direction was given to arrange necessary steps within two or three days to install PCR testing facilities at the airports," said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam after the meeting yesterday.