BD Workers in Italy: 15,000 stranded at home, face uncertain future

After several months of wait in Bangladesh, expatriate worker Enamur Rahim was scheduled to fly back to Italy next week.

He has been stranded since March as regular air communications remained suspended from March 16 to June 15 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Italy government’s fresh decision to put restrictions on entry of all flights or passengers from Bangladesh till October 5 came as a bolt from the blue for Enamur.

“If I cannot return to my workplace within the next 15 days, my visa will be expired and my job there at a private company will be at stake,” Enamur said, adding, “It seems my whole plan turned upside down.”

Italy made the decision on Thursday after several Bangladeshi passengers were found Covid-19 positive upon their landing to that country recently.

The decision has put the fate of several thousand Bangladeshi expatriates in Italy, who are currently in Bangladesh, in further uncertainty.

According to Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB), around 12,000 to 15,000 Bangladeshi expatriate workers in Italy are waiting for their travel to the country at present.

An official at Bangladesh embassy in Rome said after several Bangladeshis were found Covid-19 positive, locals in Italy, especially in capital Rome, have started treating Bangladeshis in a “different way”.

Now Bangladesh has to prove that it is committed and sincere in curbing coronavirus infection to establish its positive image, he said, wishing not to be named.

The official said the first such imported case of Covid-19 from Bangladesh was reported in Italy in the last week of June.

According to officials, Bangladeshi passengers who tested Covid-19 positive in Italy carried documents which showed they were Covid-19 negative in Bangladesh.

On Thursday, Italy’s health ministry issued a notice to airmen (NOTAM) regarding the air travel restriction from Bangladesh.

The NOTAM said no flight from Bangladesh will be allowed to enter Italy. No airlines can bring passengers from Covid-19-hit country due to the risk of further Covid-19 spread. Passengers who came from Bangladesh cannot be brought on transit flights either.

Different foreign airlines, including Qatar Airways, already sent letters to travel agencies after getting the directives.

On July 7, the Italian government imposed a travel restriction for one week after a significant number of passengers of a special flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines tested Covid-19 positive once they landed at the airport in Rome.

The passengers had certificates that they tested negative for Covid-19 and were safe to travel.

Following this, Italy denied entry of around 146 Bangladeshi passengers — on board two transit flight of Qatar Airways — into the country on Wednesday.

Qatar Airways, which along with a few other foreign airliners got go ahead last month to operate transit flights on different destinations from Dhaka, carried back the Bangladeshis to Dhaka early yesterday.

In a statement on Thursday, Qatar Airways said, “Upon request of the Italian health ministry, all flights/passengers from Bangladesh with final destination to Italy are forbidden.”

“Effective from July 8 and valid till October 5, passengers are not allowed to travel to Italy from Bangladesh irrespective of any nationality and irrespective of any routing involved where flight originates from Bangladesh,” read the statement.

Arfanul Haque, labour welfare counsellor at Bangladesh embassy in Rome, yesterday said they got a notice regarding a one-week travel ban for Bangladeshis and that they learnt about the travel ban till October 5 via other sources.

Earlier in June, Japan, South Korea, and China put restrictions on operating flights in their countries from Dhaka after several passengers who had travelled from Bangladesh tested Covid-19 positive after they landed in those countries.

:The Daily Star