Migrant workers demonstrate in Dhaka’s Karwan Bazar for tickets to Saudi Arabia

The Daily Star  September 22, 2020
Star Online Report

Several thousand migrant workers demonstrated in front of Saudi Airlines office in Dhaka’s Karwan Bazar area this morning, due to shortage of tickets to Saudi Arabia.

Traffic movement at the busy Sonargaon hotel intersection came to a halt for an hour as around 10,000 agitated expatriate workers took to the street, witnesses said.

They, however, cleared the road as police officials assured them of resolving their issues through discussion with Saudi Airlines’ officials.

Admitting shortage of seats, a top commercial officer of Saudi Airlines’ Dhaka office said at least 30,000 Bangladeshi expatriate workers are waiting to return to their workplaces in Saudi Arabia.

“But Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh initially gave us permission to operate only two flights weekly from Dhaka which is inadequate considering the huge number of passengers,” the Saudi Airlines official said wishing anonymity.

“We have already applied to CAAB to increase number of flights so that we can accommodate more Bangladeshi workers,” he further said.

The Saudi Airlines official also said visas of most of the 30,000 workers waiting to return to Saudi Arabia will expire on September 30.

“That’s why there is a huge rush for tickets at present. We are trying our best to resolve the issue. We will give priority to issue tickets to those whose visas will expire on September 30,” said the official.

Jahed Hasan, who came from Bhola, told this correspondent that he was scheduled to return to Saudi Arabia on March 20. But he could not return due to suspension of flight operations from middle of March following global Covid-19 pandemic.

“The Saudi authority extended my visa till September 30. But I couldn’t confirm my return ticket in the last two days. I will lose my job if I can’t go to Saudi Arabia by then,” he said.

Ariful Hasan, who came from Sonargaon, Narayanganj, also said he has been trying to confirm his return ticket for the last two days but to no avail.

This correspondent talked to several others who echoed the same.

Bangladeshi expatriate workers have been flocking to the Saudi Arabian Airlines office for tickets for the last three days. They were seen waiting — from dawn to dusk — in front of Saudi Airlines office to confirm their tickets.

Several workers complained that the Saudi Airlines authorities are charging additional Tk 25,000 to re-issue tickets.

Abdus Salam said, “We have our return tickets. Now, why are they charging us such a big amount of money for reissuing tickets?”

At the same time, several people alleged that tickets are being sold at high price.

Biman Managing Director and CEO Mokabbir Hossain said the national flag carrier is scheduled to resume its flight to Saudi Arabia on October 1 while Saudi Airlines is scheduled to resume its flight from Dhaka from tomorrow.

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