Crimes tarnish image of Bangladesh in Sri Lanka

Sheikh Shahariar Zaman
Published : 03:00, Jun 18, 2019 | Updated : 03:00, Jun 18, 2019

Involvements of Bangladeshis in drug trafficking and illegal employment or overstaying in Sri Lanka are tarnishing the image of the country in the Indian Ocean island country.
In two incidents December, over 300 kgs of heroin were found in the possession of five Bangladeshis who were arrested by Lankan police. Eventually, involvement of several Bangladeshis was also traced.
After the terrorist attacks in Sri Lanka, over 20 Bangladeshis have so far been arrested on the ground of staying illegally and some of them were sent back to Bangladesh.
Lankan media have highlighted these news, which has cast negative impact about Bangladeshis in the society.
Officials concerned believe that Dhaka needs to do act fast to find out the culprits who are abetting the wrongdoers in Sri Lanka.
A foreign ministry official said, “The criminals are working at both ends and the local law enforcing agencies need to strengthen their efforts to root them out.”
He said after the drug haul in Colombo, five members of an international gang were arrested in Dhaka, and such operations need to be intensified to bust the shady operators.
About illegal stay of Bangladeshis in Sri Lanka, he said, “The immigration authorities at our Airport really need to be more vigilant to stop this.”
He said, Sri Lanka maintains open visa regime to promote tourism while the thugs are abusing the opening by sending people there as illegal workers taking advantage of shortage of workers in SL.
It is also now known that they are also using Sri Lanka as a transit point to dispatch Bangladeshis towards Europe.
“If immigration authorities wish, they can distinguish between a real tourist and a worker,” he added.
It is mentionable that 11 Bangladeshi workers, who worked in a copper factory owned by a suicide bomber, overstayed and were eventually sent back to Bangladesh. Later, in two incidents, another 15 were arrested and some of them were deported.
Many believed that arrest of the few Bangladeshis so far is the tip of the iceberg and suggest of larger number in Sri Lanka overstaying there.
To make things worse, there was a case where one Bangladeshi was arrested to have forged a resident visa in Sri Lanka which was first such a case in forgery in which was first such case by any foreigner in Sri Lanka.
Another foreign ministry official said, some manpower agents at grassroots are enticing people from districts which are traditionally not migrant sending areas in Bangladesh.
They charge as high as Tk 0.2 million promising a lucrative job in Sri Lanka but they end up getting just around Tk 12,000 to Tk 14,000 a month, he said.
“These agents work both at Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. As the lured Bangladeshis land in Colombo airport, they are even received by the Bangladeshi operators,” he said.
For the last couple of months, overstayed Bangladeshis are rounded up on a regular basis and it is increasingly becoming necessary to mobilise entire government wide agencies and authorities to firmly address the issue, he said.
When contacted with Bangladesh High Commissioner to Sri Lanka M Riaz Hamidullah, admitting the situation he said, “The local authorities have been consistently urging us to raise the issues with Dhaka. As and when a Bangladeshi national is detained, we try to step in fast with the Sri Lankan authorities.”
He said, “We find it interesting that many of the migrants are from districts like Tangail, Shariatpur, Kushtia. We found one immigrant who was actually a traditional weaver but ended up working in a bakery”, he said.
“We are working with the Sri Lankan authorities to ensure arrangements for their earliest return to Bangladesh.”