Foreign nationals arrested for staying on illegally in Bangladesh
Foreign nationals arrested for staying on illegally in BangladeshFile photo

It is natural for the state to display empathy towards persons who come to Bangladesh from all over the world as migrants for economic reasons. There are many undocumented Bangladeshi expatriate workers in various countries of the world too. Bangladesh expects that they be treated with utmost empathy. The huge contribution of remittance to the country's foreign currency reserves is undeniable. That is why the state must have a humanitarian extradition policy for illegal foreign workers.

The apprehensions are not unfounded that Bangladesh may have to pay dearly for its lax surveillance of foreign nationals in Bangladesh. According to a report appearing on 2 November in Prothom Alo, official records show that 12,000 foreign national (9,000 of them Indian) from 108 countries who had entered Bangladesh legally are now staying on illegally.

The government surveillance in this regard is very lax. According to the law, the police's Special Branch (SB) is responsible to keep these foreign nationals under surveillance. They say they are aware of the dangers involved, but are not active about extraditing the illegal workers due to lack of the required infrastructure.

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In order to set up a process to legalise the illegal foreign workers and also to send them back to their respective countries if needed, the first requirement is political decision. If that is in place, the necessary laws can be prepared or updated and an infrastructure created.

The law enforcement agencies often avoid arresting foreign nationals staying illegally in Bangladesh in the 'greater interests' of the country

The law enforcement agencies often avoid arresting foreign nationals staying illegally in Bangladesh in the 'greater interests' of the country. They know if these persons are arrested, they will be handed over to the court and a legal process will begin. Many will come out on bail and chose a lengthy legal process. That is why SB and other agencies choose to be lenient about arresting these illegal foreign nationals, as it seems to be lesser of the evil. However, this cannot go on. After all, outward appearances cannot differentiate between a terrorist and an innocent economic migrant. Weaknesses in surveillance can lead to serious danger.

Other countries of the world have interim systems to speedily extradite illegal expatriate workers. They are normally kept in safe homes at first. These are referred to as detention centres in many countries. Bangladesh should certainly use the more sensitive term 'safe home'. After all, no matter what legal questions may be involved, workers are economic migrants, often economic refugees. They should not be bracketed with common criminals.

However, human traffickers and other dubious quarters often take advantage of this weakness and loopholes in Bangladesh. The arrest of over 50 persons from eight African countries who were involved in bank credit card scams, counterfeit currency, other scams involving IT, contract marriages, etc, indicates that it is high time for the government to strengthen its control and surveillance on foreign nationals.

The Indian government itself has said that Bangladesh is among one of the top five countries from where it receives remittance. It should be thoroughly checked whether the foreign nationals who are earning legally here, are evading taxes or not. They must be monitored carefully.

According to the Foreigners Order 1951, after a foreign national is detained, he must remain in a 'safe home' until extradited. The immigration police will be allocated funds to bear the expense of air tickets and other extradition expenses. This negligence must come to a halt.

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