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Dhaka Tribune

Russia-Ukraine war: Bangladesh govt begins measures to repatriate citizens

Around 500 Bangladeshis have crossed Ukraine border, mostly to Poland

Update : 28 Feb 2022, 11:49 AM

The Bangladesh government has initiated measures to repatriate its citizens who fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries in light of the Russian invasion.

A top Foreign Ministry official told Dhaka Tribune about 500 Bangladeshi citizens have so far crossed the Ukranian border. About 450 of them entered Poland, while around 50 entered Hungary, Romania, Austria, Slovakia, or Slovenia.

Shelters have been opened in Poland for the Bangladeshis awaiting repatriation. Each shelter can hold about 250 people.

The Bangladesh Embassy in Poland has already begun collecting the information of those who have reached Poland, as well as those who are still stranded in Ukraine, according to Bangladesh Ambassador to Poland Sultana Laila Hossain.

Rahat Bin Zaman, deputy chief of the Bangladesh Mission in Austria, told Dhaka Tribune, 15 Bangladeshi medical students from the Ukraine are now at the dormitory of Semmelweis University in Budapest. 

“We are now trying to manage air tickets and will send them soon on a commercial flight,” he added.

Regarding the situation at the border, he said: “There is a large crowd of Indians on the Hungarian part of the border, but not many Bangladeshis. Those who have been asked to come to this part of the border are being received.”

He echoed that most Bangladeshis were going towards Poland, as there are facilities available for them there.

Many Bangladeshis wish to stay in Europe

Sikder Bodiruzzaman, DG (East Europe & CIS) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said strict instructions had been issued to ensure that there are no loop holes in the shelter and repatriation process.

He added that the number of Bangladeshis who return is expected to be quite small, as most of them wish to stay in Europe. 

“Many of them are expatriate workers who spent a lot of money to migrate to Europe and they keep their families and the country’s economy afloat by sending remittance. Considering this, the government has decided to extend all kinds of cooperation to the expatriates. The Ministry of Finance is also planning to take various steps," he said.

The Polish authorities have so far agreed to allow Bangladeshi citizens to enter Poland for 15 days only for transit purposes. All other intentions or actions will be treated as a violation of the settlement between Bangladesh and Polish authorities, according to the sources of the Embassy of Bangladesh in Poland.

DG Sikder Bodiruzzaman said communication with other countries, including Poland, was ongoing and the direction of the war in Ukraine would influence any decisions.

He also said every effort would be made to ensure the safety of Bangladeshis.

A team from the Bangladesh embassy in Warsaw is working near the 500km Poland-Ukraine border to assist Bangladeshi citizens wishing to enter Poland.

Earlier, Bangladesh asked its nationals stranded in Ukraine to contact the country's diplomatic missions in the neighbouring European countries, while Poland and Romania came forward to provide temporary shelters for Bangladeshis.

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, around 400 Bangladeshis had safely crossed the Ukranian border and reached Poland as of Sunday. Among them, 46 Bangladeshis were in temporary shelters arranged by the Bangladesh Embassy in Warsaw, while the others chose to make their own arrangements.

The Embassy was working to rescue and relocate 28 Bangladesh nationals through ICRC, Ukraine, and to evacuate Bangladeshis detained in Ukraine through IOM, Ukraine.

Three Bangladeshis had so far entered Romania and were being looked after by the Bangladesh Embassy in Bucharest. Seven more Bangladeshis were expected to enter Romania soon. 

They were all willing to return to Bangladesh immediately.

Meanwhile, a Bangladesh ship with 29 crewmembers, all Bangladeshis, was stuck at the port of Olvia in Ukraine.

The goods-laden ship Banglar Samriddhi, owned by the state-run Bangladesh Shipping Corporation, was anchored at the port before the Russian invasion began, according to crew member quoted by UNB.

The crew are reportedly stranded on the ship at the port.

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