64 Bangladeshi Migrants: Still stranded in Mediterranean
12:00 AM, June 17, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:15 AM, June 17, 2019

64 Bangladeshi Migrants: Still stranded in Mediterranean

Envoy goes to their boat to convince them to return home

Bangladesh Ambassador to Libya Sheikh Sekander Ali made a journey on the Mediterranean Sea, around 10 kilometres off the Tunisian coast of Zarzis, to convince 64 Bangladeshi migrants to return to Bangladesh.

The migrants were rescued by an Egyptian boat on Tunisian waters on May 31.

Neither Tunisia nor any European country agreed to accept them. 

Meanwhile, the Tunisian Red Crescent has been providing them food and medicine since then.

“Our ambassador is now on a boat and is trying to convince the migrants. We hope he will be able to do it and make the Bangladeshis return,” Chiranjib Sarker, director general of the consular wing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Daily Star yesterday evening.

Sekander flew from Libya to Tunisia last Thursday and held a meeting with Tunisian officials the next day. The officials refused to allow the migrant boat to come to its shore, arguing that their migrant centres were overcrowded. 

However, they allowed the Bangladesh ambassador to go to the boat, which was brought 10 kms closer off the coastal city of Zarzis. 

Earlier, the boat was 25 kms off the coast.

Chiranjib said the migrants were not willing to return to Tunisia. Instead, they wanted to go to Europe -- a proposition that’s not possible given Europe’s strong stance against illegal migration, which has seen a sharp rise since Libya plunged into civil war after the ouster of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

“We’ll get to learn the latest situation tomorrow,” he told The Daily Star.

ASM Ashraful Islam, labour counsellor of the Bangladesh embassy in Libya, said there were possibilities that the human traffickers involved in arranging the journeys from the Libyan coast to Europe encouraged the migrants not to return to the Libyan or Tunisian coast.

Some 40 Bangladeshis were feared dead in a boat capsize on May 9, while 14 of them, among other nationals, survived.

Apart from that, the Libyan coastguard has intercepted a number of boats heading towards Europe and detained the migrants of different nationalities. Of them, some were Bangladeshis, according to a recent statement issued by the Bangladesh embassy in Libya.

Apart from Tunisia and European countries, the Libyan coastguard too has been strongly enforcing the maritime boundary.

Under such circumstances, the embassy requested the Bangladeshis, about 20,000 in Libya, and their relatives and friends to be careful regarding such journeys.

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