Coronavirus Pandemic

Bangladeshi migrants hit hard in Middle East

Md Owasim Uddin Bhuyan | Published: 01:20, Mar 24,2020


Bangladeshi workers who migrated to the Middle East countries are passing their days in deep distress after losing jobs due to lockdown in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus infection.

The migrants have been quarantined at camps or they were asked to stay home to prevent coronavirus infection, officials and the victims told New Age.

About 80 lakh Bangladeshis work in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and other Middle Eastern countries, according to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training.

Bureau director general Shamsul Alam told New Age on Monday that the government was in  constant touch with the labour wings at the Bangladesh embassies in the Middle East to provide the needed support to ‘our workers’.

‘If needed, the Wage Earners’ Welfare Board would provide financial support to the Bangladeshi workers,’ he said.

Bangladeshi mason Kajol Miah told New Age on phone from Doha that he had been quarantined in a camp on instructions from the Qatar government that had also put in place nationwide lockdown.

Kajol said that he had migrated to Qatar with the free visa after paying Tk 6 lakh to brokers.

‘I am in deep frustration as I don’t know what’s in the future,’ he said.

Sabuj Miah, who owns a car cushion store in Sharjah, told New Age that he was asked to shut down his shop for two weeks.

‘I am worried if the situation continues all the workers would starve and die,’ he said.

Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training officials told New Age that Bangladesh government requested the host countries to provide food and other essentials to the workers.

On Monday, Saudi Arabia clamped three weeks’ curfew from 7:00pm to 6:00am local time as part of its fight against the novel coronavirus, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

Saudi authorities on Sunday reported detection of 19 new cases of coronavirus infection, with the total infection in the kingdom rising to 511.

Unspecified number of Bangladeshi migrants are among thousands of construction workers, who have been trapped in labour camps in Qatar after the authorities sealed off the huge Doha Industrial Area and the Qatari labour camps as part of lockdown after some of construction workers were infected by the novel coronavirus.

There are around 2 million migrant workers in Qatar – mostly from south Asia and east Africa – who make up 95 percent of the working population. The number of migrants has increased rapidly in recent years as the country gears up to host the World Cup in 2022.

Inside the quarantined camps, the migrant workers on unpaid leave are passing their days in fear and uncertainties with only food.

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