A group of 101 Bangladeshi nationals returned from Libya via Istanbul yesterday afternoon with another 1,000 expected to arrive by next two or three days.
And some 8,867 Bangladeshis, now stationed in different countries bordering Libya, are in the process to be evacuated, Foreign Secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes said at a news briefing yesterday.
The 101 were brought home by their Turkish employer Summal Libya JSC. They were first taken to Istanbul by a Turkish flight, said an official at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.
At the briefing, Mijarul Quayes said the government does not feel a wholesale evacuation was necessary yet. “But, we have preparations for a quick evacuation, if the situation demands,” he added.
Quayes said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina after a cabinet meeting yesterday instructed the foreign ministry to ensure security of the Bangladeshi nationals living in the North African country.
But reports say foreigners were continuing to flee Libya and migrants of various nationals flooded into Tunisia, Greece and Egypt.
Some foreign embassies in Libya have started to evacuate their staff.
The 192-member UN General Assembly, which is mandated to elect members of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC), will meet today and is likely to call for the expulsion of Libya.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Sadeque, a Bangladeshi chartered accountant who returned home from Tripoli yesterday, told The Daily Star that the Bangladeshis in Tripoli could be in a serious trouble, as clashes between the rebels and Gaddafi’s forces could erupt anytime.
“I would request the government to bring back the stranded Bangladeshis in whatever way it can,” said Sadeque. Tripoli is home to 10 to 15 thousand Bangladeshis.
Sadeque, an employee of an oil company, and three other chartered accountants returned home on their own via Istanbul and Karachi.
In Tripoli Airport, he found some Bangladeshis, who had air tickets for an Emirates flight on February 22, but failed to return, as the airline cancelled flights until March 26.
The Libyans themselves are now in a bad situation, while many employers left the workers in danger, as shortage of food and water was a usual issue, said Sadeque.
Speaking at the briefing, the foreign secretary said the situation in Benghazi started returning to normal, and shops and banks in the city reopened.
Besides, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has started its activities in full-swing in Libya and they are providing food to people and helping them to move to safer places.
In this context, he said arrangements could be made to shift the Bangladeshis to Benghazi.
He said the companies are taking their Bangladeshi staff to safer places, adding the Bangladesh government will pay for air travel, food and hotel in the evacuation process if there is none to pay.
Quayes said more than 8,867 Bangladeshis either left or are set to leave Libya by plane, ships or buses for safer destinations in Greece, Egypt, Tunisia and Malta.
He said 700 Bangladeshis, now stranded at Tripoli International Airport and having difficulties leaving Libya by air or sea, will be shifted to Tunisia by buses today with support from ICRC.
He said Korean Hanil Company will take 1,500 Bangladeshi to Tunisia while Daewoo will shift 2,000 to Titeus Port of Greece by Thursday.
Besides, some 3,500 Bangladeshis have already reached the Egyptian border. Of them, 1,000 were given travel documents yesterday to enter Egypt from where they will be brought back home.
Already 804 Bangladeshis reached Crete Island of Greece by a ship arranged by Chinese State Company.
He noted the Bangladesh government has already given the undertaking that it would bear the entire cost, including ship fair, hotel accommodation, and also guaranteed that none of the Bangladeshis will overstay in Greece.
International Organisation for Migration will also shift 362 Bangladeshis to Tunisia by plane today while one Bangladeshi reached Malta by a British Royal ship yesterday.
The foreign secretary said the Bangladesh Ambassador in Cairo informed that some 670 Bangladeshis will return to Dhaka by air in the next two to three days with the arrangement of the company that recruited them.
Mijarul Quayes said the foreign ministry has already sent officials from Dhaka and moved staff from Bangladesh missions in Greece, Egypt, Italy, Malta and the UK in Libya to support the shifting.
Replying to a question, he said a ship of Bangladesh Navy is now on a UN peace keeping mission in Lebanon, which could be diverted for emergency evacuation from Libya.
Besides, all the Bangladesh Biman aircrafts will be put into operation for emergency evacuation and authorities have already sought landing permission from the Libyan authorities, the foreign secretary said.
Secretary to expatriates’ welfare and overseas employment ministry Zafar Ahmed Khan, Additional Foreign Secretary Mustafa Kamal, DG of Consular and Welfare Wing at foreign ministry Sultana Laila Hossain were present at the briefing.