- Visas of returnees expired in pandemic
- Bahrain not renewing visas
- 3,000 having returned from Bahrain stranded at home
- Half of them find jobs in other countries
- Workers stuck, blamed the Bangladesh embassy for poor diplomatic efforts
- Bahrain is home to around 2 lakh Bangladeshi workers
Ershadul Haque, who had been working at a restaurant in Bahrain since 2013, returned home on 5 February last year on a three-month leave but the 28-year-old from Cumilla could not fly back to his workplace as flights were suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Adding to his woes, his visa expired in May last year and he was not able to renew it.
Around 1,500 Bangladeshi workers like Ershad met the same fate and are now still stranded in Bangladesh, according to the Bangladesh embassy in Bahrain.
They have been leading a tough life in financial distress with no jobs for at least 18 months.
"I have a 10-member family including my wife, two children, father and mother. I brought around Tk2 lakh, but now I am penniless. I have had to borrow money for the last few months to maintain family expenditures," said Ershad.
He said his employer is interested in re-employing him, but the Bahrain authorities are not allowing in workers whose visas have expired during the pandemic.
"My employer has told me that the Bangladesh embassy could play a proactive role in convincing the government of Bahrain to bring these workers back. But the diplomatic efforts are still not up to the mark to resolve the problem," he added.
The returnees have staged demonstrations at different times in front of the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry, seeking efforts to help them go back to their workplaces.
The returnees said when they came home, they had valid visas and were eligible to go back to their workplaces. So, they ask why they cannot now return to Bahrain as valid workers.
Referring to Dr Mohammed Nazrul Islam, Bangladesh ambassador in Manama, the Bahrain News reported on Sunday that around 1,500 of the 3,000 Bangladeshi nationals who chose to leave Bahrain since March last year, are stuck at home due to the pandemic.
The Bahrain returnees said almost half of them have already left Bangladesh for other destinations for work, like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Imran Hossain Ashik, who returned from Bahrain and recently flew to Saudi Arabia, told TBS over the phone, "After staying around 18 months at home, I have reached Saudi Arabia on a work visa on 27 August this year as I failed to renew my visa for Bahrain. Still, I miss my job as a driver at a private company in Bahrain where my monthly salary was around Tk55,000 per month."
He hopes to go to Bahrain again from Saudi Arabia if he gets a chance, as his employer still wants him to do the job.
"Around 1,500 workers who returned from Bahrain have so far left for other countries. Those of us who could not have the financial ability to go to new destinations are still at home," added Ashik, one of the organisers of the demonstrations.
Bahrain is home to around 2 lakh Bangladesh nationals, according to an unofficial estimate.
Construction is the biggest employment sector for Bangladeshis in Bahrain as 70% of the Bangladeshi workforce in the Gulf country is involved in this field as unskilled, semi-skilled, and skilled workers, according to the Bangladesh mission there.
On a phone call in January this year, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen requested Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid Al Zayani, to take back Bangladeshis who got stranded at home due to the pandemic.
Sheikh Mohammed Tauhidul Islam, labour welfare counsellor at the Bangladesh embassy in Manama, could not be reached for comment.
Embassy officials earlier told the media that those who have valid visas were able to go back to Bahrain from Bangladesh by maintaining current health guidelines in place.
Around 4,000 Bangladeshi workers returned from Bahrain between April and December last year, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment, and Training.
Returning from various different countries, around 2 lakh migrants got stuck amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Most of them have already reached their destination countries except for those who returned from Malaysia and Bahrain.