Dhaka, Riyadh to bring stranded workers back to Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Dhaka will from Sunday begin renewing visas for thousands of Bangladeshi workers stranded in their home country due to the coronavirus pandemic. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 26 September 2020

Dhaka, Riyadh to bring stranded workers back to Saudi Arabia

  • Kingdom extending visa renewal deadline for thousands of Bangladeshi workers stranded in their home country due to coronavirus pandemic

DHAKA: Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Dhaka will from Sunday begin renewing visas for thousands of Bangladeshi workers stranded in their home country due to the coronavirus pandemic, following the Kingdom’s decision to extend the deadline by 24 days, officials told Arab News.

Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia’s national carriers, Biman and Saudia, will operate 16 flights to facilitate the process, with the flight frequency increasing, to get the stranded migrant workers back to the Kingdom.

According to government data, nearly 50,000 Bangladeshi workers returned from Saudi Arabia between last December and this March.

A majority were unable to return to work due to the coronavirus outbreak, which led to a lockdown in both countries and the suspension of flights.

“Not all the stranded migrants require a visa extension,” Dr. Mohammad Javed Patwary, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, said on Saturday. “Those who came earlier at the outset of the pandemic and between Dec. 2019 to March 2020 will require it.” 

Saudi Arabia said it was extending the visa renewal deadline until Oct. 14, based on a request by Dhaka.

Saudia began operating two passenger and two chartered flights from Sept. 23, while Biman will start flying workers back to the Kingdom from Oct. 1.

“Initially, Biman was to operate four flights,” Mofidur Rahman, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB), said. “But now, seeing the huge pressure of the stranded migrants, we are open and they can operate as many flights as they want.” 

He added that the CAAB was yet to receive permission for passenger flights from Saudi Arabia but hoped to get it as soon as possible.

“I have contacted the concerned Saudi officials regarding the passenger flight permission for Biman and expecting to get it shortly when the offices resume,” Patwary told Arab News.

However the measures have failed to allay the fears of migrant workers who want better coordination among airlines and health departments for Saudi-bound passengers.

“We need to collect the COVID-19 test reports within 48 hours of the flight,” 27-year-old Arman Hossain told Arab News. “But currently we are receiving tickets only a few hours before the flight, which puts us in extreme difficulties to manage the COVID-19 test reports.” 

Health officials in Dhaka urged airline authorities to issue the tickets in advance so that passengers could collect the test results on time.

“Sometimes passengers are coming to our center only 10 to 12 hours before a flight as they receive the tickets at the last moment,” Dr. Moinul Ahsan, civil surgeon and the person in charge of all government hospitals in Dhaka, told Arab News. “Practically, we need at least 24 hours to process a COVID-19 sample and generate the report.” 

As of Friday, Dhaka’s coronavirus sample collection center had provided 1,525 test results. 

“On Saturday, we have thus far collected 797 samples and the migrants are still coming to provide samples,” Ahsan said. “We are working round the clock, and none missed the flight due to not having the test report in hand.”

Shariful Hasan, from the Bangladeshi NGO Brac, suggested authorities provide accommodation for passengers flying to Saudi Arabia.

“Most of the passengers are coming from out of the capital, and they don’t have any residence in the city,” he said. “Since the passengers need to collect the COVID-19 test reports within 48 hours of their travel, the government should provide some accommodation facilities for them to ease the process. We hope all stranded migrants will be able to fly by Oct. 14.”

According to data from Bangladesh’s Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training, Saudi Arabia is the single largest source of foreign remittances, with more than $4 billion sent by nearly 2.2 million workers last year.


Global organizations commend Saudi Arabia’s role in e-learning

Updated 23 October 2020

Global organizations commend Saudi Arabia’s role in e-learning

JEDDAH: Six international organizations have completed two studies on e-learning in the Kingdom and praised its efforts in providing a rapid response, multiple options and continuous improvement during the coronavirus pandemic.
The studies involved the participation of 342,000 respondents and were conducted under the supervision of the Kingdom’s National Center for e-Learning.
The center said that the global organizations completed two comprehensive studies on the experience of public and higher education in Saudi Arabia during the pandemic, with the aim of documenting and studying the reality of the experience and coming up with initiatives to develop e-learning practices in accordance with current global practices and standards.
The studies were conducted with the participation of students, faculty members, teachers, parents and school leaders.
The number of participants in the public education study reached 318,000, while the number of participants in the higher education study reached 24,000.
The first study was prepared by the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), with the participation of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), Quality Matters (QM), the UNESCO Institute of Information Technologies in Education (IITE), the National Research Center for Distance Education and Technological Advancements (DETA) in the US.
The second study was prepared by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with the cooperation of the Harvard Graduate School
of Education.
In the studies, reference comparisons were made with more than 193 countries. The two studies showed the Kingdom’s distinction in the diversity of options, including, for example, electronic content and satellite channels available for e-learning in public education.

NUMBER

342k

The studies on e-learning involved the participation of 342,000 respondents and were conducted under the supervision of the Kingdom’s National Center for e-Learning.

The percentage of countries that succeeded in providing these at the national level was only 38 percent.
The study conducted by the OECD and the Harvard Graduate School of Education included a comparison of the Kingdom’s response to education during the COVID-19 pandemic with 37 member states.
The results showed the Kingdom’s progress in 13 out of 16 indicators on the average of
these countries.
The study also revealed that teachers received significant support to overcome obstacles to e-learning.
The study of public education indicated that there was a clear strategy for the Ministry of Education to reopen schools in the Kingdom and address any issues.
OLC hailed the efforts of the Saudi Ministry of Education in dealing with the crisis by providing a variety of options for e-learning, and the quick response to the pandemic and immediate shift to remote instruction.
The two studies recommended 71 proposed development initiatives for public education and 78 proposed development initiatives for higher education.
The National Center for e-Learning is working in coordination with the Ministry of Education to present the initiatives and begin their implementation.
The center announced that the organizations that conducted the studies would publish their results and complete the second phase at the end of the current semester.