ABU DHABI // Bangladeshis are calling for an end to the visa ban on their citizens, as it leaves them with few job opportunities and makes them vulnerable to abuse from employers.
There has been a ban on any new visas being issued to Bangladeshis since 2012 because of the high crime rate among their compatriots.
Professionals claim they are being forced to pay for visa renewals when by law, that is their employers’ responsibility.
Ziaul Haque, who lost his job as a portfolio manager for Noor Bank in a reshuffle more than two years ago, said it was time the Government reviewed the ruling. “For two and half years, I have sat around idly without a job even though I’ve had lucrative offers from leading UAE banks, which I can’t join because our visas are blocked,” said Mr Haque, 34.
“My visa couldn’t be shifted from company A to company B.
“Due to some unethical behaviour of other countrymen in the UAE, we professionals have to pay the price.
“Because of them, all visa issuance to Bangladeshis has been blocked.” He urged the Government to issue visas to professionals who have clean records of conduct.
“My entire family has been going through a tough time, as my father is 91 years old,” said Mr Haque, who wants to move to another GCC country to work.
“I am a victim of this ban.”
Many other Bangladeshi professionals are on verge of leaving because of the visa problem.
Rehan Mehfoos, 23, who completed his bachelor’s in business administration in Dubai, is on a student visa but will now have to look elsewhere for work.
“I plan to move to other Gulf countries for a job,” said Mr Mehfoos, who was born and raised in Dubai. “We can’t get a new work visa and change jobs, and this is very painful for us.
“My two brothers are also jobless but because of our father’s business, we survive here.”
Afraid of losing jobs that pay better than at home, many say they have no option but to stay in the same position, even if their career stagnates.
“I have to pay my visa renewal fee. I have been doing this for the past four years,” said R Choudhury, who is paid Dh1,800 a month at a tailoring shop in Abu Dhabi.
“If I resist, the employer openly threatens to cancel the visa. Since they know that we don’t have an option, they squeeze as they want.”
Some workers say they have come to deals with their employers to pay half of the visa cost, while some buy visas from people and work independently.
“I bought the work visa from a local, paying Dh8,000, and I now chauffeur passengers in my private car to Dubai and other emirates,” said one Bangladeshi driver who owns his own car.
The Bangladesh embassy in Abu Dhabi said there had been no change on the policy.
“New visas for Bangladeshis are still blocked. There’s been no development on that,” said labour counsellor Arman Ullah Chowdhury.
“Nobody has approached the mission complaining of being exploited over their visa renewal fees. If they come to us, we will help them.”
The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation did not respond to requests for comment.