US visa curbs: We will not share the names
Washington today said it began applying the visa policy that was announced on May 24 this year. In an email interview, US Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs Donald Lu shared some details of the action with The Daily Star this evening
DS: Who have you restricted under the US visa policy? What are their roles and positions?
Donald Lu: We have said from the beginning that we will not share the names of individuals who have received visa restrictions under this policy. Visa records, including individual visa denials, are confidential under US law. What I can say is that we have looked very closely at incidents since we announced this policy. After a careful review of the evidence, we have imposed visa restrictions on members of law enforcement, the ruling party, and the political opposition.
The purpose of this policy is to show that we are a constructive partner for the people of Bangladesh by working to reduce violence and deter actions that undermine a free and fair election.
DS: What have they done, and why did you impose visa restrictions on them?
Lu: This policy can impose these visa restrictions on anyone found to be undermining democratic elections. This could include vote rigging, voter intimidation, the use of violence to prevent people from exercising their rights to freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly, and the use of measures designed to prevent political parties, voters, civil society, or the media from participating in the electoral process or expressing their views.
DS: What is the process of determining the people who face visa restrictions? How can we be sure that the process is foolproof?
Lu: The [State] Department determines an individual's ineligibility under the policy based on extensive, well-resourced, and fact-checked case-by-case review of credible information about those undermining the democratic process in Bangladesh. We apply this process equally and rigorously to government, opposition, and security services.
DS: Will it be applicable for their family members as well?
Lu: The immediate family members of such persons may also be found ineligible for entry into the United States under this policy.
DS: The Bangladesh Election Commission has not yet announced the date for the next parliamentary election. How can you impose visa restrictions even before the election?
Lu: This policy applies to the entire democratic election process, not just the election day. We may not know the exact date of the election, but it is clear that the electoral process is in full swing.
DS: US President Biden had a candid conversation with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on the sidelines of the G20 in Delhi. Hasina also attended a banquet hosted by President Biden in New York last Tuesday. Does this indicate the easing of US-Bangladesh relations?
Lu: We have a dynamic, strong, and multi-faceted bilateral relationship with Bangladesh. The United States has been a critical partner in Bangladesh's remarkable development journey – we have provided billions in assistance over the last 51 years.
We are helping Bangladesh combat its current dengue crisis. The United States is the biggest foreign investor in Bangladesh. Our security partnership is robust and enduring. We are by far the largest donor for the Rohingya refugee crisis –helping Bangladesh care for the largest refugee population in the world.
Last year, we celebrated 50 years of bilateral relations and look forward to deepening our engagement with Bangladesh over the next 50 years and beyond.
The United States wants what Bangladeshis themselves want: free and fair elections that are conducted in a peaceful manner.