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37 Bangladeshi migrants feared dead trying to reach Europe: Govt

12 May 2019, 5:49:00

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.

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“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 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. Source: Unb.

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