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Dhaka Tribune

Italy committed to making migration from Bangladesh safer, ambassador says

Bangladeshi community in Italy becoming larger and more integrated, Ambassador Antonio Alessandro says 

Update : 07 Jun 2024, 03:27 PM

Italian Ambassador to Bangladesh Antonio Alessandro has said visa applications accompanied by fake documents and the illegal practice of paying a hefty amount of money to middlemen are among the reasons that create problems in making smooth migration from Bangladesh to Italy.

“We are determined and committed. The embassy and our authorities back in Rome, we are committed to making the migration from Bangladesh to Italy increasingly safer and orderly,” he said in an interview with three media outlets including UNB at the embassy.

The ambassador encouraged everyone to trust only reliable partners, saying migrants and workers should make sure where they are going to work, which kind of job, under which conditions and in which city in Italy. “This is very important.”

The Bangladeshi community living in Italy, the largest in the EU, is a strong pull factor in this regard. It contributes significantly to the well-being of Italy and is also an important source of remittances for Bangladesh with €1.2 billion transferred in 2022.

Explaining reasons why visa processing gets delayed, Ambassador Alessandro said their estimate is that one in five applications is accompanied by a problematic and irregular document.

“There is a practice of paying middlemen a very high amount of money to organize the transfer to Italy. This is an illegal practice, actually both in Italy and in Bangladesh,” he said.

Responding to a question from UNB, the ambassador said in many cases migrants pay this money but they do not even know where the money is going, what kind of work they are going to do and at which company they are going to be employed.

“So this practice must stop. And this is the main reason for our slow process. And this is the main reason why our migration from Bangladesh to Italy is having problems,” said the Italian envoy.

He said work visa is one category and there are other categories of visas – tourist, business, study and family visas – and all these categories are growing in large numbers.

Community becoming larger, more integrated

The community of Bangladeshis in Italy is becoming larger and more integrated and attracts a number of people for family reunions, business tourism or family visits, he said.

“All this is putting significant pressure on our embassy, and that explains the delay, because work visa is important, but these other categories are also important, and our visa office has to work for all categories. So I recognize that there are delays, and of course, we apologize to the public for this delay,” said the ambassador.

He, however, said applicants should be careful when they entrust their money to someone to organize their migration, only refer to official agencies, and refuse to pay large amounts of money to middlemen and brokers.

“Our official agency for visa processing is VFS Global. They are the only ones authorized to collect documents for visa applications, and there has been a lot of talking, for example, about the difficulty of getting an appointment; that is not VFS’s fault,” Alessandro said, adding that they have put a ceiling on the number of applications that they can accept every day.

“Otherwise we cannot process it. And that's why it's difficult to get an appointment because there is a ceiling. And of course, many people cannot enter into this within this ceiling,” he added.

Under normal circumstances, the Italian visa system works with the passport and the applicant leaves the passport through VFS Global. Then VFS Global brings this application and the passport to the embassy.

“Now we are not keeping the passport anymore. This is a waiver that our headquarters has authorized for Bangladesh. So applicants for work visas now only leave a photocopy of the passport. They keep the passport with them so that they can travel and use the passport for other purposes. We are considering now what to do with the passports that we have at the embassy at the moment,” he said.

The ambassador said the embassy is determined to clean the backlog and give an answer to all applicants.

“I also want to say that entry to Italy for a working migrant implies four steps. One is the sponsorship by a company. Second, one is the work permit, visa by the embassy, and finally, the entry at the border and the immigration control at the border,” he said.

Ambassador Alessandro said people who have completed the two steps with sponsorship and work permit they cannot be sure that they will go to Italy.

“In fact, they, many of them are rejected because the sponsorship is fake, the work permit is counterfeited and for many other reasons. So until the completion of four steps, they are not sure of being admitted to Italy,” he said.

The ambassador said the Bangladeshi community in Italy is increasingly well-integrated. “I am happy to say and to recognize that cases of explorations are limited and that your community successfully integrated.”

He stressed that the community of Bangladeshi people in Italy is a proper community because people, after a while, can bring along their families and establish themselves permanently.

“All this makes this community successful. Many entrepreneurs and young generations were born in Italy. So it is a very successful community, and we should continue to promote this and make sure that the illegality stays away.”

The ambassador said a network of criminals exists and they should counter them and avoid illegal flows of migrations.

Asked about the backlog of passports, he said it is difficult to give an answer on when they will be able to clear the entire backlog. “It is difficult because it depends on the problems that we find in each application.”

There are at least 20,000 passports with the embassy but probably more because outside the embassy, there are many applicants waiting for an appointment.

The ambassador said they have taken some measures and one is to acquire new space which will be a larger space, more functional for the visa office and the same for VFS Global. “VFS also moved to a new facility, new visa application centre, much larger and more functional and comfortable for applicants.”

The second measure is that they have recruited two local staff recently and some additional staff from the headquarters will be added, Alessandro said, adding: “It will take some time, but we hope to receive more human resources in the days to come.”

He said they had a delegation from the headquarters recently to assess the situation and study options for helping the embassy deal with this backlog.

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