Dhaka, May 12 (UNB) – A total of 37 Bangladeshis among others feared dead in Friday’s boat capsize in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to reach Europe from Libya.
While briefing reporters at his office on Sunday, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said “30-35” Bangladesh nationals might have died in the boat capsize as 14 Bangladeshis have already been rescued among 51 of them.
“It’s (the incident and loss of lives) very regrettable,” he said expressing displeasure over taking risky voyage by Bangladeshis despite knowing the facts of dangers.
The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh Ambassador to Libya Sk Sekander Ali conveyed them whatever information they have through international media.
Asked about the possibility of bringing back bodies home, he said the representative of Bangladesh Embassy in Tripoli will see the situation there physically and bodies will be brought back home, if recovered.
"Primarily, we came to know there were 51 Bangladesh nationals among others on the boat," ASM Ashraful Islam, labour counsellor of Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli told UNB adding that 37 of them are still missing.
“About the death, it’ll be premature to comment rather it can be said out of 51 rest (37) are still missing,” he said.
Ashraful Islam said they do not know yet whether there is any chance of rescuing more. “Wait until tomorrow (Monday) for my presence on the spot. The rescue operation is still going on.”
He said the Embassy is in touch with Red Crescent in Tunisia to know details. "We’re yet to reach Tunisia. We hope to reach there soon.”
Mongi Slim, the head of Tunisia’s Red Crescent, said on Saturday that around 75 migrants had left Libya’s Zouara on the boat.
The BBC Bangla, quoting other agencies, claimed that most of the victims were Bangladeshis.
Slim told the Associated Press that only 16 people have been rescued by a Tunisian fishing boat and 14 of them are Bangladeshis.
He said those still missing are nationals of Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco and unspecified countries in the sub-Saharan Africa.
Friday’s accident was dubbed the “deadliest migrant boat sinking since January” by the International Organization for Migration.
Many Bangladeshis choose the risky way to reach Europe in the hope of a better life. A number of them often die in the seas.
At least 164 people have drowned in the first four months while crossing the sea from Libya to Europe, according to the UN.
Situation in Libya
The Foreign Minister said the government, amid the volatile situation there, has imposed full restriction on travelling to Libya considering the situation in Libya with few exceptions for those who have permanent job.
He suspected that Bangladeshis are going to Libya from other countries with a fake hope to go to the Europe instead of going there directly from Bangladesh due to restrictions.
The Foreign Minister said it is not easy task to look after all as there is only one officer in Labour wing of the Embassy in Tripoli. “We need to work in a coordinated way. We need to know whether people are going abroad in a valid way,” Dr Momen said.
The Foreign Minister also said five Bangladesh nationals went to Iraq allured by others and they are now in jail there. “Now, it’s our responsibility to take them back.”
In April, Bangladesh Embassy in Libya advised all Bangladeshi nationals living in Tripoli—and its adjacent cities—to remain alert so as to avoid untoward incidents; because the government of the country issued a "state of alert."
The government of Libya issued a state of alert corresponding in response to the recent state of law and order in the country.
Dhaka, May 11 (UNB) – Bangladesh and Canada have discussed ways to help students pursue higher studies in Canada through Student Partnership Programme (SPP).
Founder and Chairman of Canadian University of Bangladesh Dr Chowdhury Nafeez Sarafat recently organised a meeting among diplomats, eminent businesspeople and key stakeholders focusing on the SPP between Bangladesh and Canada.
High Commissioner of Canada in Bangladesh Benoit Prefontaine and High Commissioner of Bangladesh to Canada Mizanur Rahman attended the meeting held in Toronto, said a press release on Saturday.
SPP is an arrangement that provides quick and easy visa for studying in Canada.
The Canadian High Commission had previously entered into SPP arrangements with India and China which facilitated thousands of students from these two countries.
A large number of Bangladeshi students apply for studying in Canada each year but significant number of these applications gets declined as students are unable to meet eligibility criteria.
Once implemented, the proposed SPP in Bangladesh will result in faster visa processing, less documentation and streamlined admission and visa guidelines for all SPP participating institutions, said the press release.
Dhaka, May 11 (UNB) - A couple of Bangladeshi origin was jailed by a New Zealand court on Friday for exploiting migrant workers at their sweetshop in Auckland.
Mohammed Atiqul Islam and Nafisa Ahmed, both New Zealand citizens, forced their workers to work long hours. In one case, they did not allow a worker to take a day off in 14 months.
Atiqul and Nafisa were charged with human trafficking, exploitation of temporary workers, and other immigration-related charges, reports the New Zealand Herald.
The Auckland District Court jailed the man for four years and five months, and the woman for two years and six months, according to stuff.co.nz.
The court was told that the couple seized the workers’ passports, and paid them $6 an hour or less.
Charges brought against the couple by Immigration New Zealand included deceptively arranging the entry of two Bengali nationals into the country. They were also charged with human trafficking but were later found not guilty.
The offences came to light after two chefs at their sweetshop lodged complaints with the New Zealand authorities.
Dhaka, May 10 (UNB) – Bangladesh Embassy in Athens has made a presentation on Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's “The Unfinished Memoirs” at the Thessaloniki Book Fair.
Thessaloniki Book Fair, inaugurated on Thursday, is not only the largest book fair in Greece but also the biggest in the entire Balkan region.
“We called it - Bangabandhu: Unfinished Memoirs of the Poet of Politics,” said Bangladesh Ambassador to Greece M Jashim Uddin who made a presentation on the book.
This is for the first time the Embassy made such a presentation in front of a Greek audience.
More than 300 publishing houses from 20 countries are representing in the fair that will conclude on May 12.
Thousands of people are expected to visit the fair during these four days. The Bangladesh Embassy is participating in the fair for the third time.
“The videos on Bangladesh displayed all day long have Greek subtitles. The books displayed are representative of our rich literature,” said the Ambassador in a Facebook message.
A separate presentation was made on National Poet Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Dhaka, May 10 (UNB) - The UN human rights body has called on the government of Myanmar to immediately grant humanitarian access to all conflict zones, including northern Rakhine State where restrictions on humanitarian access is exacerbating the suffering of civilians.
“Continued human rights violations, collective punishment and impunity will only fuel the conflict between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army,” said Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Geneva on Friday.
He said the ongoing conflict between the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) and the Arakan Army in Rakhine State has continued to escalate in recent weeks and called on the Myanmar government to respect international human rights law, and all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law.
“Peace is grounded in justice and without it no progress can be made,” said the Spokesperson mentioning that they are deeply concerned about possibly 40 to 50 ethnic Rakhine boys and men who reportedly remain detained since 30 April in a school in Kyauk Tan village, Rathedaung township in northern Rakhine State, where six detainees were killed on May 2 by the Myanmar Army.
Colville said they are deeply concerned about the extrajudicial executions, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, mistreatment, protracted use of a school for military purposes, and what appears to be punishment of a large group of villagers for the violent acts perpetrated by an armed group.
“We’re also concerned at the announcement that the episode will be investigated by the military,” said the Spokesperson.
The Office of the High Commissioner of UN Human Rights has repeatedly observed that investigations by the Tatmadaw serve only to whitewash their crimes. “We echo calls for a credible, impartial and independent investigation into the incident in Kyauktan, which should be investigated along with the incident in Mrauk-U.”
The Office of the Commander-in-Chief in Myanmar reported on May 2 that the Tatmadaw, Myanmar’s Army, had opened fire on 275 men and boys who were temporarily detained in a village school, killing six and wounding eight.
According to the Tatmadaw, soldiers opened fire when the group tried to seize their guns, but other sources dispute this account.
They say the Tatmadaw opened fire indiscriminately after one of the detainees tried to escape. The army says it has launched an investigation into the incident.
After the shooting, the bodies of the six men were reportedly laid out in full view of the village which, as of yesterday, remained surrounded by military and was said to be running out of food.
The men and boys are believed to have been detained following attacks by an armed group, the Arakan Army, on two Tatmadaw bases on April 9.
According to information received by the UN Human Rights Office, the Tatmadaw surrounded Kyauk Tan village on April 30, and called on all males over 15 years of age to report to the local school.
Those over the age of 60 were released, while the others were reportedly mistreated and detained, including sleep deprivation and the denial of food.
Since May 2, most of the boys and men have been released in groups, apparently after being interrogated.
However, up to 50 remain in incommunicado detention without access to lawyers, doctors or any other form of protection. They are reliant on family members for food.
Colville said while the imposition of severe restrictions on access by media, and many international actors, to conflict areas in Rakhine makes independent verification extremely challenging, reports suggest that six men confessed to having links with the Arakan Army and were blindfolded and taken on Tuesday night to a navy vessel.
“This is not an isolated incident. On April 22, three ethnic Rakhine men who were among 27 arrested in Mrauk-U, also following the April 9 Arakan Army attack, were shot dead in detention,” he said.
The authorities have refuted allegations that they were shot but the bodies were cremated shortly after their deaths and before their families were notified, said Colville.