Saudi Arabia lifts ban on Bangladeshi workers after seven years - ministry

DHAKA, Aug 11 (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia has lifted a seven-year-old ban on the recruitment of Bangladeshi workers, Bangladesh said on Thursday.

The decision came as thousands of workers, most of them from the Philippines and India, are stranded in Saudi Arabia after big lay-offs triggered by a slump in oil prices.

Bangladesh’s foreign affairs ministry said in a statement the ban had covered all workers except for the domestic workers.

It was imposed amid a global economic downturn after allegations of anomalies in the recruitment process, government officials said.

The ministry said the lifting of the ban was “the culmination of unremitting efforts of Bangladesh”.

“The new decision would pave the way to build up strong economic ties between the two brotherly countries for mutual benefits,” the ministry said.

All categories of workers including skilled, semi-skilled and professionals could now be recruited, it said.

Officials at the Saudi Arabian embassy were not available for comment.

There are about 1.3 million Bangladeshi workers in Saudi Arabia, including about 60,000 maids, most of whom began working there before the ban.

About 10 million Bangladeshis are working abroad, more than 60 percent of them in the Middle-East.

Remittances are Bangladesh’s second-biggest source of foreign income, after garments, but they fell 2.5 percent in the last financial year that ended in June, to $14.93 billion, largely because of the impact of lower oil prices. (Reporting by Ruma Paul; Editing by Robert Birsel)