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Tunisia agrees to let 64 Bangladeshis fly back home

  • Published at 08:45 pm June 18th, 2019
WEB- Tunisia
File photo: Migrants, who were rescued after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the Tunisian Coast after they had left Libya, are seen inside a local Red Cross chapter in Zarzis, Tunisia May 11, 2019 Reuters

They have been stranded in the Mediterranean Sea for more than two weeks

Tunisia government has agreed to let 64 Bangladesh nationals, who have been stranded in the Mediterranean Sea for more than two weeks, to come to shore, and fly back home, according to Foreign Affairs Ministry officials.

The Bangladeshis, still on an Egyptian rescue vessel 10 kilometres away from Tunisian coastal city of Zarzis, will only be allowed ashore after they are issued travel passes — enabling them to fly back to Bangladesh, the officials told Dhaka Tribune yesterday.

They also said that the stranded Bangladeshis have agreed not to pursue approval for  continuing their journey to Europe — a demand they made earlier.

“Yes, we have been able to resolve the issue,” said a senior official. “This has been possible through tripartite negotiations between our Ambassador in Libya Sk Sekandar Ali, Tunisia government, and the International Red Crescent Society.”

The Bangladeshi envoy in Libya had to travel to Tunisia from Tripoli to find a solution to the problem, reminded the official.

“The Tunisians will allow the Bangladeshis to come to their land, and fly back home only after they are issued travel documents,” said another official.

“As we do not have any mission in Tunisia, our embassy in Tripoli will issue one-time travel passes for them as soon as possible. But, till then, the Bangladeshis will remain on the boat near the shore.”

However, the Foreign Ministry officials could not provide any timeframe as to when the Bangladeshis would return home.

On May 31, an Egyptian rescue boat rescued 75 migrants, including the 64 Bangladeshis, after the engine of the vessel carrying them broke down in the sea.

Since then, the vessel with the rescued people onboard from different nations — Bangladesh, Egypt, Morocco, and Sudan — has been stranded off the Tunisian coast, after the authorities refused to let them disembark, and European countries declined to accept them.

The people on the boat also did not want to disembark. Not only that, they demanded that their boat should be refuelled, and allowed to leave for Europe. They were also refusing food, and medicines offered to them.