THE government has formally enlisted the help of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for the estimated 1,500 to 3,000 Bangladeshis trapped in war-ravaged Yemen. We are informed that the Foreign Ministry is sending two officials to take necessary measures to verify nationalities and then take steps to help them find transportation back home from the port city of Aden. As Bangladesh formally declares support to the Saudi-led coalition that has launched attacks against Shia Houthi forces in that country, the situation has become very fluid on the ground. Time is of the essence to repatriate our citizens from Yemen before the small window of opportunity that exists for evacuation closes.
Beyond the IOM, India which is already involved in evacuating its own nationals and has helped some Sri Lankan citizens do the same has offered help to us. While countries like India and Pakistan have sent ships and other forms of transport to get their nationals out of harm's way as soon as possible, we are still in the process of mobilising our merchant fleet. A response from IOM is expected shortly and since we have no formal diplomatic presence in Yemen, the logistics are somewhat stretched. The fact that the national airline has no direct flights to Yemen does little to help matters. Despite that, it is imperative that coordinated and concerted efforts are made by our missions in the region with international agencies and other countries to contact Bangladeshi expatriate workers in Yemen so that evacuation may commence in an orderly fashion.