After intense negotiations, Bangladesh and the European Union have finalised a draft agreement on the modalities on the return of irregular Bangladeshi migrants from 28 EU countries.
At the two-day negotiation that ended in the capital yesterday, the EU accepted Bangladesh's proposal to bring back all its citizens living illegally through a nationality verification process within a “logical time," said diplomatic sources.
"Both the sides now will go to the internal procedure for signing a formal agreement on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to determine the ways on their early return," said a senior official at the foreign ministry.
"It may take maximum two months to complete all formalities and internal procedures to ink an agreement."
Kamrul Ahsan, secretary (Bilateral and Consular) of the foreign ministry, led the Bangladesh side in the meeting, while the EU side was headed by Paola Pampaloni, deputy managing director for Asia and Pacific of EU Foreign Service.
The meeting was followed by signing of an agreed minutes between Bangladesh and EU delegation on SOPs for the return of irregular migrants at State Guesthouse Meghna.
The Bangladesh side assured that the government would do everything to bring back the undocumented citizens.
Meeting sources said the repatriation process would begin after those irregular Bangladeshis completed all the legal procedures in the EU countries they are staying in.
However, no one could give any specific timeframe for starting the repatriation process.
Foreign ministry officials said as per the draft SOPs finalised yesterday, Bangladesh would first verify the citizenship of those who were said to be undocumented, and the lengthy process involved several ministries.
They said the government might form a taskforce for internal coordination, and setting up of a special cell had already been proposed with the representatives of the Election Commission and the Department of Immigration and Passports for the verification process.
Bangladesh is one of the top 30 countries which is having 1,04,575 citizens detained and found to be illegally living in the EU countries during the period of 2008-2016, according to eurostat statistics.
EU diplomats in Dhaka recently said they had seen a growing number of Bangladeshis were risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean Sea, particularly from Libya, to reach Europe, especially Italy.
The EU could not say the number of Bangladeshis living illegally in EU member countries, but it claimed that the figure was quite alarming and it was very much concerned about that.