More than 4,300 undocumented Bangladeshi migrant workers are waiting to be repatriated from Kuwait, after they applied under a special amnesty declared by the Gulf country to reduce migrant population amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
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The workers, many of whom live in coronavirus-hit areas of Kuwait, will be repatriated depending on flight clearance from Dhaka, said an official at Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait on Thursday.
Their expenses — airfare, food and accommodation — during repatriation will be borne by Kuwait government, said the Bangladesh mission there.
As per the amnesty, undocumented workers will be able to return home without any fine and will be eligible to re-enter the Gulf country through legal channels in the future.
However, the decision for repatriation has put “pressure” on the Bangladesh government amid the coronavirus crisis and feared economic aftershock.
To ensure institutional quarantine of repatriated citizens, the government is setting up quarantine centres for 4,000 persons in Dhaka and nearby districts.
Among some two lakh Bangladeshis in Kuwait, about 25,000 are estimated to be undocumented.
Kuwait has reported 1,658 positive coronavirus cases and five fatalities till yesterday evening.
Besides Kuwait, some labour-receiving countries recently asked Bangladesh to take back undocumented workers. Foreign Minister Abdul Momen on April 5 told media that four to five countries have reached out to Bangladesh in this regard.
He said although not a lot of countries are making this request, it has put pressure on the government at this critical moment.
Talking with this newspaper, an official at Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait said after the Bangladeshi workers applied, Kuwait authorities prepared necessary documents for quick repatriation.
Seeking anonymity, he said since Kuwait authorities will bear all expenses, they are ready to send the workers back home within a couple of days.
“It now depends on the time required for flight clearance,” he told this newspaper on Monday.
Kuwait has also asked the Philippines, India, Egypt, and Sri Lanka to take back their undocumented workers under the amnesty, which started on April 1 and will continue throughout the month.
The Philippines has already repatriated more than 600 undocumented workers from Kuwait, according to media reports.
Md Anisuzzaman, acting labour welfare counsellor at Bangladesh Embassy in Kuwait, said Kuwait authorities started receiving applications from Bangladeshi workers on April 11. Many of them are from labour camps in Mahboula and Jleeb Al-Shuyoukh, places that are under a two-week lockdown since April 6, said Anisuzzaman, also head of chancery at the Bangladesh mission.
He said due to the lockdown, Kuwait government has undertaken unprecedented precautionary measures to run the amnesty programme.
Application deadline for Bangladeshi workers ended on April 15. On Thursday, Anisuzzaman said a few more days are required to finish pending work.
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