EU asks Bangladesh to bring home 700 people   

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published at 11:28pm on January 27, 2021

The European Union has offered Bangladesh support for taking initiative to bring home about 700 Bangladeshis stranded in freezing temperatures without basic humane housing conditions in the Balkan region. 

The EU has made the offer in a letter to the government recently, asking it to take the people back as most of them are victims of trafficking and have become irregular migrants without any valid document to remain in Europe, an EU official in Dhaka told New Age on Wednesday.

The government is ‘positive’ about taking steps to bring the group back subject to the verification of their nationality under the mechanism called standard operating procedure to bring irregular citizens back from the EU region, said a Bangladesh government official.

At least 700 Bangladeshis are among several thousand people of different nationalities have got stranded in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Slovenia for at least ten months as they were trafficked to the countries for sending to western European countries, including Italy.

A good part of the 700 Bangladesh citizens are to live outdoors without basic humane housing conditions as a fire destroyed a temporary emergency camp in northwest Bosnia on December 23, 2020.

In a statement on January 21, the Human Rights Watch called for immediate concerted, urgent action by the Bosnian authorities to ensure that the migrants have access to winterised housing and the medical and other assistance the people need in the camp in operations since April 2020.

The International Organisation for Migration, which runs the camp with EU funds, warned the authorities several times that the camp was unfit for winter conditions.

In 2017, the government has signed SOPs with the European Union on return  of genuine Bangladesh migrants with no right to stay in the EU member countries.

The EU member countries, according to the SOPs, would be able to repatriate irregular Bangladesh nationals only after exhausting all administrative and judicial procedures of respective sending countries and subject to verification of their nationality.

The Bangladesh side, in all meetings with the EU teams, asserted that it was ready to take back its citizens subject to verification of their nationality, on case by case, before their departure from the country they were staying.

Several hundred Bangladeshis have returned home from various EU member countries since the signing of the SOPs, officials said.