x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Bangladeshis tell embassy, do more to help citizens

Government has been asked to provide more embassy staff to cope with 700,000-strong Bangladeshi community.

Abubakar Siddiki, who works for a carpet retailer in Dubai, says service from the consulate has deteriorated in the past two years.
Abubakar Siddiki, who works for a carpet retailer in Dubai, says service from the consulate has deteriorated in the past two years.

DUBAI // Bangladeshi expatriates feel they are being let down by their embassy because it does not provide enough support and deals too slowly with vital paperwork.

They say many Bangladeshis who decide to start a new life in the Emirates are not properly informed of the pitfalls they may face when they leave their home country.

Expatriates are urging embassy staff to be more proactive and educate people about the UAE's laws and customs when they arrive.

"Up until about two years ago things seemed to be working OK," said Abubakar Siddiki, a 32-year-old Bangladeshi, who works at a carpet retailer in Mall of the Emirates. "But since then it's a nightmare trying to deal with the consulate.

"It's very disappointing how it doesn't appear that embassy staff seem to look after the interests of its citizens."

Mr Siddiki, who has lived in Dubai for eight years, blamed officials for failing to help support Bangladeshis in the Emirates and for "unnecessarily" long waiting times to get documentation completed.

"Unlike the Indian or Filipino embassies that seem to take care of the interests of their people, ours doesn't seem to care," he added.

He said it was not uncommon for people to wait weeks to have documents translated by embassy and consulate staff.

"It is frustrating because we have to renew our passports every five years, so we have to visit the consulate on a regular basis to get that sorted out," said Aftab Monir, 30, a computer engineer, who has lived in Dubai for five years. "But even for things like arranging no-objection letters or having documents translated from Bengali to English can take weeks.

"They should be making things easier for people to sort out these documents."

Others said the embassy should be working harder to inform people of what to expect when they come to work in the Emirates.

"Many people back home have this impression that when you come to the UAE you will be making lots of money," said Imran Shah, 37, who owns an events management company in Dubai. "But that is not so in many cases.

"There are a lot of expats who have done very well for themselves but I would say the larger majority haven't and are in low-income jobs.

"These are the people who need the most help from our government."

Mr Shah, who has lived in the UAE for 27 years, said people from poorer backgrounds found it particularly difficult to get help from officials.

"Bangladeshis who come here are promised attractive wages and other benefits but the reality is very different.

"What they should be doing is following up with these prospective employers and making sure they are there to advise expats if there are problems.

"Expats are a crucial part of the economy back home in the amount of remittance money they send back.

"Not helping these people when they are here will have an impact on families in Bangladesh."

The Bangladeshi ambassador, Nazmul Quaunine, said the problems and delays were down to a lack of resources.

"What you must remember is that our community has grown to the third biggest in the UAE at 700,000," he said.

"Unfortunately the manpower levels in our Dubai consulate and Abu Dhabi embassy are from levels 15 years ago."

In Dubai there are only two signing officers for passports, one translator and one other official dealing with labour issues, while Abu Dhabi has just three signing officers and two translators.

"Our staff are under a huge workload on a daily basis, particularly in Dubai, which is why they can't get through cases as fast as people would like.

"However, we have asked our government for more staff and hopefully we will be getting an extra signing officer at the end of next month and more officials after that.

"We are aware of the situation and are looking at ways of improving what we do."

nhanif@thenational.ae