Seventeen of the 64 Bangladeshi migrants, who had been stranded in the Mediterranean Sea off the Tunisian coast of Zarzis for nearly three weeks, returned home yesterday afternoon.
“After their arrival at the Dhaka airport, they were provided with food and were now going through immigration procedures,” said Abdul Kader, deputy assistant director of the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training.
The foreign ministry in cooperation with the International Organisation for Migration helped them come home, he said.
They are mostly from Madaripur, Brahmanbaria, Noakhali, Shariatpur, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar and Chandpur.
Seventy-four migrants, including the 64 Bangladeshis, were brought to the Tunisian shore from 25km off the coast on June 18, only after Bangladesh Ambassador to Libya Sheikh Sekander Ali convinced them to come ashore.
Earlier, the Bangladeshis refused to return to Bangladesh or even go to Tunisia, but wanted to go to Europe.
A foreign ministry official told The Daily Star that they were trying to convince the other migrants to return to Bangladesh.
According to IOM officials, the migrants must be brought back home on a voluntary basis.
The foreign ministry official, requesting anonymity, said if the rest of the migrants did not return home, it would be difficult for them to get help from Tunisia in future.
“Relatives of the migrants should help convince them to return home,” the official said.
Since the civil war began in Libya after the fall of the country’s leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, the North African country has become a major route of human trafficking or smuggling to Europe.
On May 9, a boat carrying around 65 migrants, including 40 Bangladeshis, capsized in the Mediterranean Sea near the coast of Tunisia.
According to Bangladesh Embassy in Libya, some Bangladeshis among other nationalities were also rescued from boats in the sea on their way to Europe in recent weeks.
The process for their repatriation was underway, said ASM Ashraful Islam, labour counsellor of the embassy.