Don’t take risky sea route to Europe | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 15, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 07:41 AM, June 15, 2019

Don’t take risky sea route to Europe

Migrants warned as 64 Bangladeshis on Egyptian boat still in the sea

Bangladesh Embassy in Libya has warned Bangladeshis there not to take the risky sea journey to Europe, citing the risks of drowning as well as Tunisia and European countries’ strong stance against illegal entry into their territories.

The warning comes at a time when a rescue boat carrying around 75 migrants, 64 of them from Bangladesh, have been stuck off Tunisia for 14 days as the Tunisian authorities refused to let them disembark, the Red Crescent said on Tuesday.

The Egyptian boat rescued the migrants in Tunisian waters on May 31, but authorities in the governorate of Medinine say its migrant centres are too overcrowded for which they could not allow them to come ashore, leaving the vessel 25km from the coastal city of Zarzis, reports Reuters.

No European countries agreed to accept them, said ASM Ashraful Islam, labour counsellor at Bangladesh Embassy in Libya, while talking to this correspondent over phone yesterday.

“Tunisian Red Crescent is providing them with food, but they are still in the sea.”

Sheikh Sekander Ali, Bangladesh ambassador to Libya, and a junior officer have already flown to Tunisia to have meetings with the Tunisian authorities.

“We will try to negotiate with the Tunisian authorities that we will send back our people home if they allow the people on the boat to disembark,” Ashraful said.

There are possibilities that human traffickers involved in arranging the sea journeys from the Libyan coast to Europe often discourage those stranded in the sea from returning to the Libyan or Tunisian coast, he said.

The labour counsellor said they had information that those who were adrift at sea did not want to come to ashore rather wanted to go to Europe.

The ambassador was scheduled to hold a meeting with the Tunisian authorities yesterday, he said.

At least 65 migrants drowned last month when their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Tunisian coast after they had left Libya hoping to reach Europe. Of them, some 40 Bangladeshis were feared dead while 14 others survived.

In the first four months of this year, 164 people are known to have died on the route, a smaller number but a higher death rate than that of previous years, the UN Refugee Agency said.

Apart from that, Libyan coastguard has intercepted a number of boats heading for Europe and detained migrants of different nationalities. Some of them are Bangladeshis, said a statement of Bangladesh Embassy in Libya yesterday.

It said Europe has taken a tough stance against the sea journeys by the migrants. On the other hand, Libyan coastguard too is strongly enforcing the maritime boundary.

“Under such circumstances, sea journeys have become impossible. On behalf of the embassy, we are requesting the Bangladeshis in Libya and their relatives and friends to be careful about such journey,” said Ashraful.

There are an estimated of 20,000 Bangladeshis living in Libya, which has plunged into a civil war after the fall of president Muammar Gaddafi in 2011.

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