Tuesday, 3 October, 2023

Migrant workers suffer for passport backlog

Migrant workers suffer for passport backlog

Many Bangladeshi expatriates and migrant workers have been struggling to get passport related services as the server of the Immigration and Passport Department (DIP) in Dhaka has run out of its capacity.

According to sources, DIP server had run out of its capacity in June and it has not issued any new passports in the last four weeks. 

Thousands of applications for new passports and passport renewal remain pending for months. Many migrant workers are also failing to complete their migration process for the delay in passport-related services.

The Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment has sent a letter to the DIP for a quick solution to the problem. Migration experts have opined that if the crisis continues, the country’s manpower sector will face a huge challenge.

Malaysia bound expatriate worker Ilias Hossain could not renew his passport in the last 11 months.

“I have been visiting the passport office in Agargaon since last September 30 after applying for renewal of my passport. Every time officials working there have told me that they were working on it. But their work never ends. I have not received my passport yet,” he said.

“I have visited the office at least 50 times. Sometimes they tell me about the long process and sometimes blame the server problem,” he added.

While talking to the Daily Sun, a number of expatriate workers have expressed frustration over the issue. Similar allegations were found on different social media groups of the Bangladeshi expatriates working in Japan, Malaysia, Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait and Maldives.

Md Sarwar Hossain, an expatriate worker living in Oman, said, “I have applied for the renewal of my passport about four months ago but have not received it yet. The validity of my passport has expired. Now I am unable to go outside and work.”

Numerous undocumented workers in Malaysia have been facing uncertainty as they can not participate in the Labour Recalibration Programme introduced by the Malaysian government to legalise undocumented workers. Many embassies and high commissions of Bangladesh abroad have sent letters to the Department of Immigration and Passports and stopped providing passport-related services to the expatriate workers for technical problems.

These embassies have expressed their regrets to the expatriates by issuing emergency notifications assuring them to resume passport service as soon as possible.

 “We have contacted the Department of Immigration and Passports and sent them a letter seeking a solution to the problem. We do not want to see our expatriates suffering in any country for their passports,” said Dr Ahmed Munirus Saleheen, Secretary of the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment.

Meanwhile, migration experts have asked the government to find a solution to whatever technical problems the DIP is facing.

Head of BRAC Migration Programme Shariful Hasan said, “Bangladeshi expatriate workers have been going through an unprecedented crisis in different countries for their passports. The government must find the reasons behind this situation and sort out the problem. It should make responsible people accountable if any negligence is found.”

Sources at the DIP have confirmed that Iris Corporation, a Malaysian company, got the work of preparing machine-readable passports (MRP) for DIP.

The government had a contract of preparing three crore passports. The recent crisis has been created as they already have produced three crore MRPs. An agreement on another 6 million MRPs has been finalised with Iris Corporation again to resolve the crisis.

Major General Mohammad Ayub Chowdhury, director-general of the department of immigration and passport (DIP), said they were supposed to issue e-passports to replace MRP passports but they could not do it due to coronavirus pandemic.

“It was not possible to go to different countries for setting up machines for issuing e-passports. If e-passport cannot be introduced due to corona, we have to continue issuing MRP till then,” he said.

“We have bought 4 million passports and signed a contract for two more years to continue printing MRPs. We hope the ongoing crisis will be resolved soon,” he added.