With dreams shattered and future uncertain, the Bangladeshi returnees from Libya have nothing for their families but the memories of horror and hardship in the desert.
In contrast to a happy homecoming with bags full of gifts, the unfortunate Bangladeshis are home penniless and in filthy attires.
Going to Libya as guest workers now feels a wrong turn of life to every one of them.
“Even a dog’s life is better compared to what we had at the Egyptian borders,” said Asaduzzaman, 27, who came home from Al Sallum yesterday, three weeks after fleeing politically troubled Libya.
Asaduzzaman used to live in Benghazi but he left the place following violence there and evacuation of his employers. He said he and his Bangladeshi colleagues had to spend nights out in the chilling desert and queue for food and water for hours after reaching the border camp. Almost every time, the food finished before everyone could have some.
According to Asaduzzaman, the Africans, especially the strong Ghanaians, used to unfairly break the queue leaving most of the Bangladeshis craving for food and water for the whole day.
The relief trucks used to leave the refugee camp as soon as chaos had broken out over queuing up. Last week, a Bangladeshi died in a stampede during such chaos, added Asaduzzaman.
International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the UN refugee agencies and Red Cross provided the stranded people with food and medicine, but those were barely enough compared to the number of migrants gathered at the borders.
“Sometimes we had food but very often we went without. I did not have rice for 19 days,” said Mohammad Sulaiman of Tangail who was seen sobbing at Hazrat Shahjalal (R) International Airport. All he had with him was a dirty bag and a blanket.
He said he could not contact his family home for over a month, as his cellphone was snatched by Libyan forces when he was at the Libyan side of the Tunisian border.
The Egyptian border forces did not allow the refugees in for ten days. At that time, the migrants only had some biscuits to hold on to, added Sulaiman.
“There was no water. Only God knows how we survived,” he said, adding that they were allowed in Tunisian territory on March 2. Food and juice were offered to them after then.
On his arrival in Bangladesh, Sulaiman had no means to contact his relatives in Shakhipur of Tangail. Noticing that, a woman approached him as a Good Samaritan. Astound by the generosity, the man momentarily forgot what to do or say.
“What should I do now? How would I face my family?” Sulaiman again broke down into tears as another man came to his help in reaching him home.
The stories of the unfortunate returnees are more or less the same. All along the airport terminals was the same concern — what is in store for these returnees? Sympathy alone is not sufficient in this case.
In twelve chartered flights of IOM, around 4,000 Bangladeshi migrants came home yesterday. With this arrival, a total of 18,857 Bangladeshis have been repatriated. Of those, IOM arranged repatriation of 15,570 Bangladeshi nationals while 3,287 came through their employees, said a foreign ministry press release.
Meanwhile, the eleven Bangladeshis who have been missing since jumping off a ship in Crete Island of Greece on their way home from Libya have been identified.
They are: Mohammad Shafiul Azam, son of Mohammad Abdul Aziz of Savar, Dhaka, Mahabubur Rahman, son of Habibur Rahman Munshi of Rajoir, Madaripur, Shomrat, son of Younus Matubbor of Bhanga, Faridpur, Bhim Kumar Paul, son of Sree Shyam Pada Paul of Bazidpur, Kishoreganj, Mohammad Farid, son of Alim Uddin of Rupgonj, Narayanganj, Ruhul Amin, son of Majir Uddin of Polan, Norsingdi, Billal Hossain, son of late Abdur Rahaman of Raipur, Laxmipur, Ronjit, son of late Jibon of Ghatail, Tangail, Arif Hossain, son of Funnu Sheikh of Bhadorgonj, Shariatpur, Mohammad Rubel, son of late Hedayet Ullah of Chatkhil, Noakhali and Jahid Hasan, son of Akteruzzaman of Pasash, Narsingdi.
According to Crete Island authorities, bodies of three men, believed to be part of a Bangladeshi group that fled a ship while evacuating Libya, were found yesterday, reports AFP.
The bodies were found near Souda Bay in the island’s northwest, said local coastguard chief Nektarios Bonatakis to reporters, adding that the men were bare-chested and of around 25 years.
The recoveries yesterday raised the death toll in the ship evacuation to six. Another eight people are still unaccounted for.
Courtesy of The Daily Star