Dhaka yesterday finalised the terms and conditions for the return of irregular migrants from the European Union and agreed to bring back all its irregular nationals through a nationality verification process within a “logical time.”
“We have in principle agreed to bring back all Bangladeshi nationals, who became irregulars and have been living in 28 European Union countries. We need to go through strict nationality verification and we will expedite this for their early return,” said a high government official, after coming out of an inter-ministerial meeting.
Dhaka will seek more time to complete the nationality verification process as there remains some apprehension about Myanmar's Rohingyas being mistakenly identified as Bangladeshis.
The European Union, in its eighth Joint Commission meeting with Bangladesh in Brussels on July 12, warned Dhaka to conclude negotiations for repatriation of thousands of undocumented Bangladeshi immigrants living in its member countries and expressed regret at the “lack of progress” regarding their return.
In an apparent ultimatum, the EU also asked Bangladesh to end the negotiations on the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) by the end of this month.
Bangladesh maintained its general position about bringing all the people with “irregular” status back. It also highlighted the need for “widening the scope of safe, orderly and regular migration”.
Following the EU warning, Dhaka yesterday finalised the SOPs at an inter-ministerial meeting held at the Foreign Ministry with Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque in the Chair. High officials from the Ministries of Law, Home, Commerce and Foreign Affairs and all law enforcing agencies and departments attended the meeting.
Meeting sources said Bangladesh has been assuring the EU that it will do everything possible to bring back its illegal citizens from Europe.
The EU submitted the SOPs on the return of irregular migrants to the Bangladesh government in June 2016. A Bangladeshi delegation at the July 12, 2017 Joint Commission meeting, submitted the draft SOPs with amendments.
Talking to The Daily Star, a senior government official who attended the meeting, said Bangladesh will not accept any ultimatum or specific timeframe to complete the return of illegal migrants but will expedite the verification process.
Though the EU has not yet given any list or specific number of the irregular migrants, one EU statistic puts the total number around 93,000.
But Bangladeshi officials said there is no concrete or specific figure in regards to the number of irregular migrants, but they suspect that the number could be 20,000 to 30,000.
According to the EU, the first 100 days of 2017 saw 4,645 Bangladeshis illegally arrive in Italy. During the same period of time in 2016, there were only three Bangladeshis making the same trip.
In 2016, a record high 8,131 Bangladeshi national were registered by authorities at landing points in Italy.
“We have sought the lists of the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants living in the EU countries. After we get the lists, we will verify if they all are Bangladeshis. We will then chalk out a plan to bring home the Bangladeshi illegal immigrants and the EU will cooperate with us in the process,” said an official of the Home Ministry.