Libya returnees demand compensation
Biman Bangladesh is going to fly home the Bangladeshis stranded at Egypt borders with Libya.
“From March 13, Biman will operate five flights a week till the repatriation finishes,” Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister GM Quader yesterday told The Daily Star over the phone.
The flights will pick the Bangladeshis from Alexandria on its way from London and Jeddah, he said.
“The government will share the cost of repatriation with Biman,” said Zafar Ahmed Khan, expatriates’ welfare secretary.
The decision comes when the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is struggling to repatriate thousands of Bangladeshi nationals stuck at Ras Adjir of Tunisia and Sollum of Egypt after evacuating politically troubled Libya.
So far, IOM has repatriated around 4,500 Bangladeshis from the borders while over 4,000 returned with the help of their employers and some on their own, said officials at the foreign ministry.
According to IOM around 12,000 Bangladeshis are in refugee camps at Ras Adjir while over 6,000 in Sollum.
Those who have returned home said quick repatriation is crucial as the people stranded at Egypt and Tunisia borders are immensely suffering from food crisis, chilly weather and lack of sanitation.
Many of the refugees at Sollum border have been sleeping in the open for nearly two weeks, said an IOM statement Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Italian government has organised and financed two civil flights operated by Alitalia, to transport some 600 Bangladeshis home from Tunisia border, said a press release of the Italian Embassy in Dhaka.
The first flight was scheduled to arrive here early today, while the second Friday evening.
Asif Munier, IOM spokesman In Dhaka, said the organisation is arranging repatriation — mainly from Tunisian border — of around 2,000 Bangladeshis a day.
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the flow of incoming refugees from Libya to the borders has now slowed down. On Sunday, for instance, only 2,000 people showed up at the camp.
The population of the camp at the Tunisian border has dropped to 15,000 from 20,000, owing both to dwindling number of arrivals and surge of departure.
A foreign ministry release says a flight of Korean Airlines chartered by Daewoo Engineering and Construction Co was scheduled to arrive here today at 1:00am with 206 Bangladeshis.
The flight was also supposed to bring the bodies of three Bangladeshis who died at Hania Port, Greece after jumping from a ship that was carrying foreign workers from Libya.
With this departure, repatriation of all Bangladeshis (around 3,000) who arrived in Greece from Libya, except for the 11 who jumped from the ship and remained missing, will be completed.
Meanwhile, the returnee workers yesterday demanded that the government negotiate for compensation with Libyan government and arrears from their employers.
They said most of them managed the money for going to Libya by borrowing or selling land.
Against such backdrop, several hundred returnees yesterday formed a human chain in front of the Jatiya Press Club under the banner Libya Probashi Kallyan Samity (welfare association for the expatriates in Libya).
Dipak Mallick of Munshiganj told The Daily Star that he spent over Tk 2 lakh to work at South Korean company Won Construction in Libya in 2008. His monthly salary was Tk 8,000. He was supposed to come home by the end of March.
“I had saved 2,000 Libyan dinar (1 dinar = 56 taka). But the Libyans looted it all and drove us out of labourer camps,” said Dipak, adding that apart from two months’ arrear salaries they also did not receive one year’s bonus from their employers.
Another worker Mominur Rahman said on January 13, around 2,000 foreign workers including about 500 Bangladeshis were looted at a labourers’ camp in Derna of Benghazi, stronghold of the anti-Gaddafi group.
Mominur demanded that the government takes initiatives to ensure jobs for the returnee workers on a priority basis and lend them interest-free loans to start businesses. Otherwise, the returnees will face serious social and economic debacle, he added.
Courtesy of The Daily Star