Home ministry for restricting travel permit issuance

Foreign ministry for strict monitoring

Muktadir Rashid | Published: 01:34, May 24,2019


Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen

The home ministry has urged the foreign ministry to stop issuing travel permit to any expatriate without its consent in order to prevent arrival of any ‘foreign terrorist fighter’ or ‘unwanted’ person in Bangladesh.
Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen told New Age on Wednesday that he was aware of the home ministry request and Bangladesh missions would be more cautious before issuing travel permits.
Immigration activists said that stopping travel permits was not a solution and the authorities or missions might strictly monitor the issuance of travel permit instead so that no migrant worker faced unnecessary trouble in returning home.
After a meeting with the chiefs of the security and law enforcement agencies, the home ministry sent a letter on May 16 making the request arguing that the security risk increased due to extremist activities in the international arena.
The security of Bangladesh will be threatened if the travel permits are issued by Bangladesh missions in abroad without examining the nationality and detail identity of the person, the letters stated.
Extremists who fought in war and unwanted people may enter Bangladesh hiding their identity, stated the letter.
It urged the foreign ministry to ask the Bangladesh missions abroad not to issue any travel permit without consent of the security services division of the home ministry.
Home minister Asaduzzaman Khan on various occasion said that they had asked immigration authorities to be cautious about the arrival of people, either Bangladeshi or Bangladeshi origin foreign citizen, who reportedly joined international extremist groups.
Dhaka Metropolitan Police counter-terrorism and transnational crime unit chief Monirul Islam said they did not know how many Bangladeshis or Bangladeshi origin foreign citizens joined international extremist groups.
‘That is why we think that restriction on travel permit can help us to secure the country,’ he said.
Any person can apply for a new passport in case of losing one, but the authorities should not allow anyone to get travel permit, he said.
Unit officials said that many countries tried to deport ‘foreign terrorist fighters’ to their country of origin without informing the country which posed a security risk.
The foreign minister, however, said that issuing travel permits would not be stopped but missing abroad would be more cautious.
‘We fear that a few countries may send foreign terrorist fighters who joined IS or others from different countries to Bangladesh,’ he said.
He referred to the case of Shamima Begum, a 19-year-old Banglashi-British who went to Syria in 2015.
Shamima was recently found in a refugee camp in Syria, expecting to give birth to her third child soon.
The minister said Shamima never wanted to secure a Bangladeshi passport not although his father was a Bangladeshi.
‘So, we are more cautious about the issue. In many cases, our high commissioner or ambassador in person will handle the travel permits,’ he said.
In early May, the counter terrorism unit officials said that they were interrogating a Bangladeshi-origin Islamic State suspect who arrived in Dhaka in February.
They said that the unit arrested the suspect, Motaj Abdul Majid Kafiluddin Bepari, who held Saudi-resident identity and driving licence, at Uttara in Dhaka on May 5. He also held a Bangladeshi passport issued in 2014.
According to the complaint, Motaj travelled to Syria via Turkey from Saudi Arabia in May 2018 and joined Islamic State. After the fall of IS, he returned to Turkey and ‘secretly’ came to Bangladesh on February 1, 2019 amid crackdown in Turkey against suspected foreign extremists.
Counter-terrorism officials said that they continued interrogating at Hazrat Shahajalal International Airport anyone they found suspected or coming from the trouble-torn Middle Eastern countries.
The wage earners welfare board assistant director Tanvir Hossain, who in the charge of welfare desk of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, said as the immigration authorities interrogated the expatriates on suspicious, sometimes it took several hours to get clearance to get out of the airport.
BRAC migration programme stated that 5,29,000 Bangladeshis were given travel permits mostly from Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates between 2008 and 2018.
In first quarter of 2019, about 12,000 Bangladeshis received travel permits.
BRAC Migration Programme head Shariful Islam Hasan said that stopping issuance of travel permit was not logical and would not be effective.
He said that it was better to identify the loopholes in issuing the permits so that no migrant workers or undocumented Bangladeshi workers faced any trouble.

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