Bangladesh excluded from Schengen visa list worrying

Published: 00:00, Jun 30,2020


BANGLADESH coming to be excluded from the draft list of countries permitted to enter the European countries when the Schengen border reopens on July 1 on grounds of COVID-19 situation points not only to the chaotic management of the outbreak in the country, but also to a diplomatic failure. Based on a set of epidemiological criteria, the European Union authorities drafted a list of 54 countries, citizens of which would be allowed to enter the countries of the Union, which have a rate of new cases of COVID-19 close to or below 16 per 100,000 people, which is the current average in the European countries. Before making the draft list of 54 eligible countries, the European Union authorities are said to have also taken into consideration COVID-19 containment measures and testing practices in those countries. While there is no gainsaying that Bangladesh has been poor in its response to tackle the COVID-19 situation which has contributed to a rise in infection in the past few weeks, what amounts to be a diplomatic failure is that, while Bangladesh is excluded, a number of countries including the neighbouring India, with a rate of cases surpassing the rate set by the EU authorities, have made it on the list.

Though the restriction on the entry of Bangladeshi citizens to the Schengen area appears to be a temporary one as the Schengen authorities are likely to review the list of eligible countries for entry on future epidemiological condition, the restriction is likely to largely impact the already struggling business scene in Bangladesh as the Schengen countries constitute the largest export destination of readymade garments. Not having access to these countries understandably suggests a further blow to the readymade garments sector, which has been struggling since the COVID-19 outbreak. While Bangladesh needs to enhance its COVID-19 prevention measures to curb the rate of infection, which is the major epidemiological criterion for Schengen visa too, the country should also diplomatically be proactive to be enlisted as an eligible country. Bangladesh should also approach individual Schengen countries, as they have their individual say on the entry list and reportedly can allow citizens of particular countries to enter their borders, to facilitate Bangladeshi citizens to enter these countries and businesses to continue uninterrupted. What is also worrying is that Bangladesh appears to have failed to enhance, and uphold, its national dignity resulting in a number of countries including the United Kingdom and Canada shifting their visa processing mechanism from Bangladesh to other countries that has seriously affected Bangladeshi citizens.

The government must, under the circumstance, step up its diplomatic efforts with the Schengen authorities and the authorities of individual Schengen countries so as to get access to the countries. The government must also attend to the mismanagement issues in the containment of COVID-9 outbreak, not just to qualify in the epidemiological criteria, set by the Schengen authorities, but to flatten the infection curve.  

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