Migrant workers return from the Middle East countries. The photo was taken at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on 12 August 2020.
Migrant workers return from the Middle East countries. The photo was taken at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on 12 August 2020. Prothom Alo

The Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment has asked for special discount on airline tickets for the expatriate workers in order to curtail immigration costs. They have sent a letter in this regard to the Civil Aviation Ministry and Biman Bangladesh Airlines. Biman, however, said that as they are counting losses, it’s impossible for them to acquiesce to this proposal.

According to the immigration related sources, on an average, about 700,000 workers go to different countries around the world on employment annually. Around 300,000 Bangladeshi migrants travel back ns forth from the country, on leave, throughout the year. So, about 1 million (10 lakh) migrant workers use airline services. They purchase tickets at high prices at various. And air ticket costs have increased further during the COVID pandemic.

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Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) says that only 7 per cent of the migrant workers use Biman while rest of the 93 per cent travel by foreign airlines. Airline companies change their fares according to the situation and so a Bangladeshi worker pays fare several times higher than normal. BAIRA secretary general Shameem Ahmed Chowdhury said that the migrant workers’ immigration costs increase due to the flight tickets. If it continues, it will be impossible to send workers overseas. So, as a state-run airline, Biman must come forward.

We are struggling to earn and are having difficulty in paying the salaries of the employees. We are having to pay instalments on loans and even taking fresh loans. It is not possible to offer concessions on tickets while we are facing losses
Md Mokabbir Hossain, managing director and CEO, Biman

Sources in the ministry of expatriate welfare and overseas employment said that the prime minister's office has issued directives to curtail immigration costs of workers who were sending remittance to the country. Accordingly, Bangladesh Biman was requested to arrange separate low-priced flight tickets at the beginning of October. A similar letter has been sent to the civil aviation ministry.

Ahmed Munirus Salehin, secretary to the ministry, informed Prothom Alo that Biman has been requested to issue low-priced tickets in consideration of the migrant workers. These tickets should be arranged on a priority basis as well. The system is followed in many countries. We are yet to receive any reply from the ministry, he said.

Biman sources said that the organisation has fallen into great loss during these COVID times. Even so, the sources said, the airline continued to provide service to its passengers without any extra costs. If any expatriate worker was diagnosed coronavirus positive at the last moment, they are reissued tickets without any extra charge.

Mohibul Haque, senior secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, informed Prothom Alo that Biman does provide concession to migrant workers at different times. But providing them with separate low-priced tickets is not possible. Biman cannot run if it continues to count losses.

Sources said that the matter has been discussed at the 8 October standing committee meeting of the expatriate welfare and overseas employment ministry. It was decided to call Biman to the next parliamentary committee meeting.

Biman's managing director and CEO, Md Mokabbir Hossain told Prothom Alo, said, we are struggling to earn and are having difficulty in paying the salaries of the employees. We are having to pay instalments on loans and even taking fresh loans. It is not possible to offer concessions on tickets while we are facing losses, he said.

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