Do our remittance earners deserve such disrespect?
It is condemnable that migrant workers are mistreated by the airport and Biman officials and staffers at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka when they come home after long stretches abroad. Complaints abound of different types of harassment, ranging from mishandling of luggage to physical and verbal abuse at the airport. The height of misdemeanour was reported when a customs official slapped a passenger who arrived from Malaysia.
Stories of migrant workers facing disrespectful behaviour at the Dhaka airport surfaced when the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) organised a mass hearing of grievances at the airport in the presence of top airport and CAAB officials. It is inexcusable that our migrant workers have to face such belittling conduct from their own countrymen – in sharp contrast to the "VIP" treatment provided to rich and powerful quarters – despite the fact that they work hard in foreign lands to earn precious foreign exchange that we need so badly to prop up our economy.
We appreciate the initiative by CAAB to improve passenger service at the country's main international airport. We sincerely hope that it was not a one-off event, but rather the first of a series of much-needed initiatives to hold the airport staff accountable and improve the quality of service. We welcome the CAAB chief's proposal of organising training programmes and preparing a code of conduct for all officials and staffers at the airport. However, we cannot help but wonder why there is no such guideline to begin with. Given the shoddy service that passengers – irrespective of their socioeconomic background – receive at the airport, it is of paramount importance that such a guideline be finalised and implemented immediately. Exemplary action must be taken against those who fail to abide by the guidelines. Most importantly, there must be a change in the mindset of both the authorities and the staff about how they treat passengers, particularly those without the "VIP" status.
During the mass hearing, several passengers highlighted their misfortune with luggage after arrival. What we would like to know is, given that the luggage problem is a perennial issue, what have the airport authorities done so far to improve the situation? Surely, this is not the first time that they have heard of a passenger losing a bag or finding parts of it missing. The mismanagement and anarchy at our top international airport is simply unacceptable and embarrassing for the nation.
We would like to stress that all passengers, especially those who earn foreign exchange for the country, must be treated with rest. The image of Biman and CAAB largely depends on what kind of services they offer to the passengers. They must act with humility, dignity, and efficiency as they are the first point of contact for those entering or returning to the country.