Hundreds of outbound migrant workers from Dhaka, Chattogram and other districts – especially those heading to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait – are having severe difficulties registering with the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET).
Though around 82,000 workers registered under the BMET till Sunday, a significant number of others failed to do so due to technical issues caused by extreme pressure of applications, flooding the server each day, say bureau sources.
A registration with the BMET – either using the Ami Probashi app or by applying in person at the nearest district employment office – is mandatory for all workers seeking to get Covid-19 vaccines on a priority basis through Surokkha, the designated vaccination app.
To make matters more complicated, a portion of Bangladeshi migrants bound for Saudi Arabia and Kuwait mistakenly provided incorrect information while registering for their jabs, which further complicates their chance of getting vaccinated.
These two countries require workers to get jabs of the Pfizer vaccine, and only seven centres in Dhaka are providing these doses. However, in their applications, many migrants unknowingly mentioned the upazila they hailed from as their preferred vaccination centres.
Saudi migrant Nurul Alam, 40, returned to his home in Sandwip near the end of last year on a six-month holiday. After his holiday period ended along with his iqama, Nurul took out another one at a cost of Tk2.5 lakh. The validity period for this iqama is nearing its end too.
Speaking to The Business Standard, Nurul said, "I would have had to cross the sea to get to Chattogram. So, I had applied through the Ami Probashi app. I should have received the confirmation message within 72 hours, but no message came even after 120 hours.
"Having no alternative, I visited the District Employment and Manpower Office in person to submit my registration documents. One week has passed since then, but I am still unable to get registered with the BMET."
Adding that even if he manages to get registered with the BMET and the Surokkha app, he will still have to visit Dhaka to get his Pfizer jab, Nurul said, "What sins did the migrants commit to deserve this suffering?"
Providing more details about the problem, BMET's Director General Md Shahidul Alam NDC said, "Our server is capable of handling 15,000 registrations per day, but outbound migrants multiple times that figure is applying daily.
"Such pressure is causing technical issues in the system. Many are having difficulties connecting to the server."
He added that among the people who have registered so far, around 2,000 Saudi and Kuwait-bound migrants are getting Pfizer jabs in Dhaka every day.
Meanwhile, the BMET has asked migrants who mistakenly provided incorrect information while registering for the jab to complete and submit another registration form.
What is the complete process?
The government's Surokkha app is designated for Covid-19 vaccine registration and is operated by the ICT Division.
Migrant workers registered with the BMET will be able to get registered using the Surokkha App or the online portal www.surokkha.gov.bd to get vaccinated against Covid-19 on a priority basis.
When successfully registered, a person will get an SMS on their phone informing them about their designated vaccination centre and the date.
Migrant workers in Chattogram suffer
Responding to queries, no officials of the District Employment and Manpower Office or the Civil Surgeon Office of Chattogram could say when the migrants of the port city and its nearby upazilas will get their vaccine doses.
On the matter, Civil Surgeon Sheikh Fazle Rabbi told The Business Standard, "We are uploading any data we get from the District Employment and Manpower Office to the Surokkha app server. The migrants will soon get their jabs.
"However, the exact schedule of when they will be getting the vaccine depends on the employment office. Those going to Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will have to get their Pfizer jabs in Dhaka.
He continued, "Not only Chattogram, any migrants hailing from any part of Bangladesh will have to go to Dhaka to get this jab. The doses of this particular vaccine must be stored under -70 degrees Celsius, and only the capital city has the facilities that meet conditions."
Chattogram district employment office Deputy Director Md Zahirul Alam Majumdar said, "For the registration process, we had provided different schedules for migrants hailing from different regions, but many are showing up on the same day.
"We are not sending back anyone. However, we are facing problems while entering so much data into our server. Once we complete the data entry process, it will be uploaded to the Surokkha app. We cannot presently say how much is needed for this process."
Commenting on the issue, Secretary-General of Covid-19 Vaccine Management Taskforce Committee Dr Md Shamsul Haque said, "Many of our worker brothers and sisters are crowding the hospitals in search of Covid-19 vaccine doses shortly after registering with Surokkha.
"I am requesting you [workers] all to visit their designated vaccination centre after getting the confirmation SMS on their phone, and not before."
Md Rubel, a Kuwait-bound migrant worker hailing from Fatikchhari, is facing a unique problem. He has already taken two doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, but Kuwait has made jabs from Pfizer mandatory for workers entering the country.
He does not know whether he will be able to get back to his workplace.