Dhaka, May 06: Foreign Minister Dr A K Abdul Momen on Wednesday said Dhaka is expecting to receive nearly 29,000 Bangladeshi nationals, mostly expatriate workers of Middle East (ME) countries in the next couple of weeks.“As per our knowledge goes.. 28,849 expatiates are likely to return here in the next couple of weeks,” he told media in video message after holding the fifth inter-ministerial meeting at foreign ministry here today to discuss on repatriation of Bangladeshi nationals from different countries due to COVID- 19.
The foreign minister said Bangladesh would bring back all its nationals who are opted to return. “We discussed (today) how we can bring them back. We can do it,” he said.
Momen also said so far 3,695 expatriates Bangladeshis returned home in last three weeks from the ME countries. “Among the returnees, large numbers were in the prisons of different ME countries but got general amnesty due to Coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
Besides the expatriate Bangladeshi deported workers, he said, the government had facilitated numbers of chartered flights to bring back so far nearly 2853 stranded Bangladeshi citizens from different countries.
Momen said more flights are being arranged to bring back rest of the stranded Bangladeshis from different countries India, the UK and the USA.
Describing Bangladeshi expatriate workers’ situation in different ME countries amid outbreak of coronavirus, the foreign minister said they are expected to return home from the United Arab Emirates, the Maldives, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Oman and Kuwait.
About Kuwait, Momen said the government of that oil-rich nation granted general amnesty to some 4500 undocumented Bangladeshi nationals and kept them in detention camps there to send them back here.
Dhaka asked the Bangladesh Mission in Kuwait to ensure adequate food supply to Bangladeshi citizens after receiving complaints that they are not given adequate food at the camps.
“We will bring them back whenever the Kuwait government wants. We have no reason not to receive them (our nationals),” he said.
Momen said many Bangladeshi expatriate workers are in the UAE while that Arab country asking every migrant worker origin countries, including India and Pakistan, to bring their nationals back in this crisis period.
He said like Bangladesh India is also planning to bring back around 2 lakhs of its nationals from the UAE.
Momen said Saudi Arabia is yet to provide the full list of deporting Bangladeshi workers but as per the current information 4262 Bangladeshi citizens are likely to return from there, the country that hosts 21 lakh Bangladeshi expatriate workers.
The foreign minister said nearly 1000 Bangladeshi nationals are waiting to return from Oman while the government is trying to involve the IOM to bring back Bangladeshi citizens from Lebanon at free of cost.
He said the number of Bangladeshi nationals lost jobs in Iraq and Jorden while the government is working on how to bring them back.
Dr Momen said the Maldivian President informed Dhaka that they will send back 1500 Bangladeshi nationals of which 400 are scheduled to arrive here tomorrow.
The foreign minister said expatriates Bangladeshis are assets of the country and the government will make sure that they do not face any problems.
However, he urged the expatriate Bangladeshi workers not to return home unless they are forced to do so amid the unprecedented situation prevailing in different countries due to the pandemic.
Momen hoped that good time would come for expatriate Bangladeshi workers after the ongoing global crisis passes.
The foreign minister said Dhaka has already raised the issue of migrant workers right and retention of their job at the platform of OIC and NAM.
“I told them these migrant workers are development partners for both host and origin countries. Either documented or undocumented, that doesn’t matter.
No one should die of starvation. Arrange food for them,” he said.
Momen said he requested all Islamic countries not to cut jobs of migrant workers at least for next six months as families of those workers here are dependent on them.
“I proposed them (Islamic countries) to form a COVID-19 recovery fund where we can contribute to retain migrants workers jobs at least for six months,” he said.
On Monday, while presenting Bangladesh statement in an Online Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Contact Group Summit, Momen called for taking a global strategy to protect interests of migrant workers as they have been hard-hit due to COVID-19 pandemic that has pushed global economy into tailspin.
Terming migrant workers as “frontline contributors” to the economies, Dr. Momen stressed the need for formulating a strategy for responsibility sharing both in home and host countries.
Earlier on April 21, at foreign minister level meeting of OIC executive committee, the foreign minister urged the Islamic countries to adopt a holistic approach for protecting migrant workers residing in OIC member states.
“The OIC must adopt a holistic and inclusive approach in designing tools to address the crisis (job retention of migrant workers),” he said.
According to the government decision, the returnee expatriate workers received Taka 5,000 on arrival at the airport while the Expatriate Welfare Ministry created a fund to give them Taka 500,000 to 700,000 loan so that the returnees can start their own business here.
More than 257,000 people have so far been killed and 3.67 million infected worldwide by the COVID-19, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown and pushed the global economy towards its worst downturn since the Great Depression.