48-hour deadline spells trouble for Saudi-bound Bangladeshi migrant workers

  • Obaidur Masum, Senior Correspondent, bdnews24.com
    Published: 2020-09-28 01:18:22 BdST

bdnews24
Seven out of the 17 kiosks to collect samples were open at the COVID-19 test centre for overseas air passengers in Dhaka’s DNCC Market on Sep 26, 2020. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

The Saudi authorities have a set a 48-hour deadline for Bangladeshi migrant workers to reach the kingdom after giving sample for coronavirus test.

With little time to prepare for the flight and only one centre to give samples, the Bangladeshi expatriates say they are facing trouble.

At least 150,000 Bangladeshis have been stranded at home after returning from different countries amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Rakib Hossain, a medical technologist at the COVID-19 test centre for overseas air passengers in Dhaka’s DNCC Market, says it takes at least five hours to deliver the results. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Rakib Hossain, a medical technologist at the COVID-19 test centre for overseas air passengers in Dhaka’s DNCC Market, says it takes at least five hours to deliver the results. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

The majority of them - around 70,000 - came from Saudi Arabia.

Saudia and Biman Bangladesh Airlines are reissuing return tickets that had been booked earlier now. They are also set to resume regular flights soon.

The decisions ended days of protests in Dhaka for air tickets recently, but the migrant workers are still struggling due to the shortage of time.

They say the Saudi authorities should extend the deadline to at least 72 hours to ease the crisis.

The authorities are collecting samples from overseas travellers for COVID-19 test at DNCC Isolation Centre in the capital’s Mohakhali.

A Bangladeshi expatriate from Germany takes a photo of a poster containing information at the COVID-19 test centre for overseas air passengers in Dhaka’s DNCC Market on Sep 26, 2020. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

A Bangladeshi expatriate from Germany takes a photo of a poster containing information at the COVID-19 test centre for overseas air passengers in Dhaka’s DNCC Market on Sep 26, 2020. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

People now begin coming to the centre to queue as early as midnight.

Nurul Islam from Keraniganj said he came at 5:30am on Sunday and finally gave the sample at 12:30pm.

He had initially taken a coronavirus-negative certificate after undergoing the test at a private hospital as, he says, the Saudia officials had told him that test from any authorised centre would suffice.

He was among 32 travellers who were turned away by the immigration authorities at the airport.

“We have to undergo COVID-19 test here. Now we are scheduled to catch the flight tomorrow (Monday),” Nurul said.

Sample collection begins at the COVID-19 test centre for overseas air passengers at the DNCC Market at 8 am. Health workers say they work until at least 8 pm. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Sample collection begins at the COVID-19 test centre for overseas air passengers at the DNCC Market at 8 am. Health workers say they work until at least 8 pm. Photo: Mahmud Zaman Ovi

Jamal Uddin from Brahmanbaria’s Nabinagar also complained that the Bangladeshi expatriates were facing issuesa due to a lack of information.

Brig Gen Md Jobayedur Rahman, the director of the DNCC Corona Isolation Centre, said they are collecting samples from up to 4,000 travellers a day.

Those who have their flights earlier than the others are being prioritised.

The authorities designated the centre for the Saudi-bound travellers because it is not far from the airport.

Bangladeshis bound for other countries than Saudi Arabia can get the tests done at authorised centres outside Dhaka as well.