DHAKA: Bangladeshi missions across the Middle East have launched a special food assistance program to help thousands of migrant workers impacted by the anti-coronavirus lockdown, officials told Arab News on Saturday.
Nearly 4 million Bangladeshi workers live in Arab countries, with many facing difficulties due to reduced work opportunities and limited funds.
“Due to the ongoing curfew, we cannot move much. We have applied to the Saudi Foreign Ministry for vehicle movement permission, which would be provided shortly. Once we receive it, our mission’s officials will hand over the food packages to the workers,” Golam Moshi, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News on Saturday.
It follows an announcement last week by Bangladesh’s Expatriates’ Welfare Minister Imran Ahmad allocating $560,000 towards the initiative.
In addition to providing food packs, the mission has launched a 24-hour toll-free helpline for its workers in the Kingdom and posted a notice on its Facebook page asking for contact, location and visa details so that they can be reached.
Moshi said that Bangladeshi officials had already received nearly 3,000 requests from different locations in the Kingdom and were getting deliverables ready to support the workers for at least 20 days.
He thanked the Kingdom for lifting restrictions on undocumented workers — who make up part of the nearly 2.2 million Bangladeshis living in the Kingdom — so that they could receive assistance during the pandemic.
“Gradually we will expand the food assistance program to other major cities of the Kingdom, too,” said Moshi, who is also Bangladesh’s permanent representative to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The Bangladeshi Embassy in the UAE has also distributed about 1,000 food packages to overseas workers in the emirates.
“It’s very challenging to reach the migrants amid this lockdown. In some areas, the Bangladeshi community is also helping the migrants with food and other emergency stuff. Our mission officials are trying their level best to assist the migrants who are in extreme need,” Mohammed Iqbal Hosain Khan, Bangladeshi consul general in the UAE, told Arab News.
He added that from among the 700,000 Bangladeshi migrants living in the UAE, about 200,000 were facing “extreme hardship” due to the lockdown.
Meanwhile, the Bangladesh mission in Jordan has received 2,500 requests for assistance from expatriates in the country.
“On Thursday, we have distributed food packages to several hundred Bangladeshi migrants in two locations of Amman — Mahatta and Jebel Hussein — which will help them for two weeks. With the current funding, we can support around 3,000 migrants,” Nahida Sobhan, Bangladeshi ambassador to Jordan, told Arab News, adding that 150,000 Bangladeshi migrants were currently living in Jordan.
“I think we will be required to support more than 4,000 migrants eventually. So, I am trying to have some more funding to help the migrants as much we can,” Sobhan said.
Similar initiatives have been taken by Kuwait, Bahrain and other Bangladeshi missions in the region, foreign ministry sources said.