UAE to lift ban on BD migrants soon

Expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment minister Nurul Islam said a ban on Bangladeshi migrants intended to enter UAE labour market will be lifted "very soon" following negotiations between two countries.

He made the prediction on Wednesday that the 2012 freeze on visas will end, according to a report published by The National, the daily based in UAE.

The ban meant that Bangladeshis in the UAE have been able to continue in their jobs, but jobseekers have not been able to join the workforce.

The ban stemmed from a spike in the crimes by Bangladeshis.

Many of the 700,000 Bangladeshis in the UAE work in the construction industry.Islam said more will be needed to work on Expo 2020 projects.

"We have received a very positive response from UAE officials about the reopening of visas and the visa ban is going to be lifted very soon," Mr Islam said after meeting with Saqr Ghobash, Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation in Abu Dhabi.

The ban also meant that workers could not move to other companies.

It also led to well-documented abuses by construction firms. Some managers forced employees to pay for their visa renewals, in the knowledge their staff could not find a job elsewhere.

It is illegal to ask an employee to pay for their visa processing or renewal.

"The UAE minister has assured me that this issue will also be resolved soon and people can change their jobs within the UAE," Mr Islam said.

He said the minister indicated that companies are willing to recruit more Bangladeshis.

"I was not given any figures but they are looking to bring in a good number," he said.

To improve the education and better settle overseas workers, the Bangladesh government opened 70 training centres. A month’s cultural training is provided free of charge.

The move is in the interest of Dhaka, given that expats send home millions in remittances, supporting the economy of one of Asia’s poorest countries.

Begum Shamsun Nahar, secretary at the expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment department, said: "We strive to shift our workforce from unskilled to semi-skilled and skilled workers.

"Previously, more than 50 per cent of our workforce were unskilled, but last year more than 52 per cent were converted into skilled workers through training."

Mohd Abdus Samad, the owner of Al Rayin General Contracting in Abu Dhabi, said the ban has made recruitment difficult.

"The visa closures pained us a great deal and many people suffered. I can’t recruit new workers from Bangladesh," he said.

Another Bangladeshi, Mahboob Haque, an accountant in Abu Dhabi for 10 years, said: "Right now I don’t want to change my job – but I don’t have any option.

"I hope that soon it will be solved, as the minister assured us.

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