529 Bangladeshis rescued from Libya, Tunisia in a month

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Raheed Ejaz (Dhaka) Published: 14 Jun 2021

They headed to Italy from Bangladesh. An aircraft from Dhaka carried them to civil war ravaged Libya and they started their perilous journey through the Mediterranean sea to their destination. But their journey was cut short in Libya and Tunisia as 529 Bangladeshis, who had been lured by human traffickers, were caught and rescued in two African countries.

A total of 443 of them were rescued in Tunisia including the 164 rescued off the Tunisian coast on Thursday.

Those who try to migrate to Europe illegally often drown in their efforts to cross the Mediterranean sea or get caught by law enforcers, yet the trend of such perilous voyages remains unabated.

Sources said the Tunisian coast guard detained 36 Bangladeshis on 18 May, 243 people on 27-28 May and 164 on 10 June.Advertisement

Earlier, the Department for Combating Illegal Immigration (DCIM) of Libya rescued 86 Bangladeshis from a desert area near the Algeria border from abductors. They were abducted en route the Mediterranean sea through Benghazi.

Foreign ministry officials on Sunday said Bangladesh embassy officials in Libya have requested Tunisian authorities for contact with 164 Bangladeshis rescued on Thursday. Earlier the embassy officials met a large number of Bangladeshis detained in May.

The officials said Bangladesh embassy officials in Libya have talked to Tunisia’s foreign and home ministry authorities, concerned departments, IOM (International Organization for Migration) officials, International Red Crescent Society and Tunisian Red Crescent Society.

Gazi Md Asaduzzaman Kabir, Bangladeshi Charge d’Affaires in Libya, told Prothom Alo on Sunday that embassy officials, with the help of the Tunisian coast guard, have interviewed 221 of the Bangladeshis rescued in the last one month. They said a human trafficking racket took them to Libya’s Benghazi by chartered aircraft from Dubai. All of them stayed in Dubai for a week after going there from Dhaka. Later they boarded dinghies to cross the Mediterranean sea.Advertisement

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“After the interview, these 221 Bangladeshis have been given shelter in Zarzis, Medenine, Djerba, Sfax and Mahdia towns upon communication with the Tunisian immigration department, Red Crescent Society, IOM and other local authorities. They are now staying at shelter centres run by Red Crescent and IOM after going through institutional quarantine,” said Asaduzzaman Kabir adding that they are taking measures to send back those who are willing to return to Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, representatives of the Bangladesh embassy in Libya have counselled Bangladeshis staying at a detention centre in Ghadames city.

Libya Observer reports that the home minister of the country recently said that over nine thousand Europe-bound immigrants were rescued by the coast guard this year while the number was over seven thousand in 2020.

According to International Organisation for Migration (IOM) a total of 813 immigrants have died on the Mediterranean sea from 1 January to 12 June this year.

A total of 160 Bangladeshis have been rescued in May with the support of IOM. The organization has helped repatriation of 2,900 Bangladeshis from Libya so far from 2015.Read more from Bangladesh

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