Abu Dhabi: Bangladeshi expats seeking embassy services can visit the mission’s new location in the capital’s Al Saadah area from Sunday, January 17 onwards.
Speaking to Gulf News, Mohammad Abu Zafar, Bangladeshi Ambassador to the UAE, said the new embassy premises will be able to comfortably seat at least 200 people. The current embassy in Al Karamah can only comfortably accommodate about 50.
“In this new year, we are moving to what is commonly known as the Abu Dhabi’s Diplomatic Area to better serve our countrymen. And if the COVID-19 situation allows, we hope to organise a number of community events postponed from last year at the new location,” Abu Zafar said.
The new embassy will be located in Villa No. 46 and 48 on Al Jawwalah Street, not far from the Embassy of Montenegro.
There are currently about 750,000 Bangladeshi expats living in the UAE, and there are plans to offer a number of important embassy services for them this year. Chief among these is the application and issuance of National ID cards (NID cards) for every Bangladeshi. The scheme was announced in 2019, but the COVID-19 outbreak pushed back the roll-out, Abu Zafar said.
The NID cards contain biometric data, and are embedded with microchips. In Bangladesh, they are essential for carrying out a vast number of transactions, including applying for a phone SIM or opening a bank account. Officials have earlier said the NIDs will eventually allow expats to cast votes in overseas elections.
“We also hope to start biometric registration for new electronic passports. At present, Bangladeshi expats have machine-readable passports (MRPs). When these expire, we will replace them with electronic passports which will not require any human intervention for a passport to be read at immigration counters,” he added.
The electronic passports are already being issued in Dhaka, and Abu Zafar hopes the mission can begin registration processes for them by mid-2021. “Adults will get 10-year validity for the electronic passports, and those under 18 years of age will get passports with five-year validity,” the envoy clarified.
The new embassy will also host community events to mark the 100th birth anniversary of Bangladesh’s founding father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. These events were originally planned for 2020 to coincide with the late Rahman’s birth in 1920. “We could not hold many of the events last year, so there are plans to organise them in 2021 if possible,” Abu Zafar said.
Speaking about the Bangladeshi expat community, Abu Zafar said many had willingly participated in the UAE’s COVID-19 vaccine trials, while a significant number had already chosen to get vaccinated since the country launched its vaccination drive.
“We hope to contribute in helping the UAE recover from COVID-19. We have noted the great efforts exerted by the UAE leadership to keep the country and its residents safe, and greatly appreciate how the vaccine is now being delivered to citizens and expats alike with everyone being treated equally. The Bangladeshi community would like to do its bit by getting vaccinated and following all COVID-19 precautions,” Abu Zafar said.
According to the top diplomat, a total of 60,000 expats have returned home to Bangladesh during the COVID-19 outbreak. “We hope they will be able to return to the UAE with gainful employment once the economy recovers,” he said.
The envoy also called upon Bangladeshi expats to continue contributing to the UAE while abiding by its rules and regulations.