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Free visa behind mass deportation from KSA

441 back home last week alone

Arafat Ara | October 10, 2019 00:00:00

Bangladeshi workers who are going to Saudi Arabia with an individual or so-called free visa are facing deportation for unavailability of jobs there.

Officials concerned and sector insiders said as the Gulf nation suspended recruiting foreign workers in 42 trades, scope for jobs has shrunk significantly.

Therefore, those who are going there with such visa certainly run the risk of deportation, they added.

According to the data of Brac Migration programme, some 441 Bangladeshi workers have been repatriated in the past one week.

With the latest count, an estimated 12,000 overseas workers have faced deportation from the oil hub since January this year.

Many of them had legal tangle like work permit.

Experts said, "A section of manpower recruiters still sells such visa to outbound workers-that's cheating."

More than 80 per cent of Bangladeshi workers are sent to the Arab country with free visa, they cited.

The experts suggested restricting individual visa and strictly maintaining job contracts.

One Abu Bakar from Sylhet went to Saudi Arabia eight months back, but he returned home empty-handed in mid-September.

"Despite having my legal work permit, I was deported," he told the FE.

Like Bakar, shop employee Anwar also was sent home from the Arab country recently.

"All of a sudden, Saudi police arrested me at my shop and later they deported me to Bangladesh," he said.

When asked, labour counsellor Md Aminul Islam at Bangladesh consulate in Jeddah said those who come here with an individual visa generally do not work under their kafala or sponsors.

The workers only use the names of the sponsors, paying a certain amount of money on a regular basis, he told the FE.

"It's illegal in Saudi Arabia. They earlier overlooked the matter even before 2017. The Saudi policy now emphasises employment of local workers in different sectors."

Between 2017 and July 2019, the Saudi authorities have closed 42 trades for foreign workers as part of the new policy.

To comply with the reformed policy, Mr Islam said, they also launched a crackdown on illegal workers and it is ongoing.

"If any foreign workers are found in the 'forbidden' sectors, Saudi police arrest them on the spot," he mentioned.

The non-complaint Bangladeshi migrants are also facing the same fate, Mr Islam explained.

He suggested aspirants not to come to Saudi Arabia with free visa.

He, however, said the demand for semi-skilled workers is still there, especially in construction sector. Recruiters should extract it from companies.

Regarding deportation of many returning home despite having work permit, the counsellor said they would look into the matter officially.

Prince Gilman, a Bangladeshi worker, said 60 per cent of the workers who have been in Saudi Arabia in 2017 are facing a scarcity of jobs.

Many of them came back home empty-handed, he added.

Mr Gilman spent Tk 700,000 for his migration, but he is yet to recover the amount.

The man recently changed his job. While he was working at a watch shop, he was worried about crackdown.

According to official figures, more than 0.5 million workers went to Saudi Arabia in 2017.

Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, secretary general of Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA), said a section of recruiters is cheating workers through selling individual visa.

They promise the innocent job-seekers independent jobs with individual visa. But things go wrong later.

Both countries should ensure transparency in the migration process, Mr Noman suggested.

The Saudi authorities must monitor that no sponsor gets any visa if they need not any worker.

"Bangladesh has now restricted migration with an individual visa," he said, adding that it is no problem if the number of employments comes down.

Quality migration is important than quantity, Mr Noman asserted.

Shariful Hasan, head of BRAC migration programme, said no worker should be sent to Saudi Arabia without ensuring their jobs.

He called for an urgent step to stop visa trading.

More than 2.0 million Bangladeshis are currently working in Saudi Arabia, according to officials.

Saudi police have arrested 3.8 million foreigners for violating residential, labour and border security regulations since November 2017, the Saudi Press Agency recently reported.


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