Dhaka, New Delhi spar over visa seekers, illegal migration

DHAKA - Bangladesh and India were engaged in a public debate over the issues of illegal migration and problems faced by visa seekers here, with Dhaka disapproving of remarks made by the Indian High Commissioner who in turn said that he was quoted out of context.

The Indian envoy had said that over 25,000 Bangladeshis travelling on visa did not return home. He had also alleged that 80 percent of visa seekers were “touts and brokers”.

An official spokesman Wednesday said the information with the Bangladesh government did not match with what Indian envoy Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty had said at a meeting of businessmen from Bangladesh and India.

In a clarification, the high commission said Chakravarty had spoken in response to a remark by a leader of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) who said that queues of visa seekers outside the Indian High Commission “would find a place in the Guinness Book of World Records”.

Rejection insinuations about complicity of its staff and corruption, the high commission said unscrupulous people in the serpentine queues and those not returning home caused difficulties for genuine visa seekers.

“Ministry would like to inform all concerned that the information available with the government does not correspond with the observation of the high commissioner,” the Bangladesh government spokesman said.

“Moreover, Bangladesh has not received any official communication from the government of India in this regard,” United News of Bangladesh (UNB) quoted him as saying.

Giving its side of the story, the high commission said: “We believe that exchange of visitors between the two friendly countries is an important aspect of our bilateral relations and we value people-to-people contact.”

The Indian High Commission in Dhaka, and its affiliated offices at Chittagong and Rajshahi, together issues around half-a-million visas annually.

In 2006, 2007 and 2008, the total number of visas issued by the high commission was 472,644, 481,064 and 523,322 respectively.

In 2008, visas were issued to 255,696 individuals for visiting relatives and pilgrimage; 55,489 for medical treatment; 6,786 for business which includes significant proportion of long-term multiple entry visas, and 2,374 for students.

New Age newspaper that ran an editorial calling Chakravarty’s remarks ‘arrogant’, said the reaction of the Bangladesh government was “half-hearted” and came 48 hours after the envoy’s remarks.

Indian High Commission also clarified that the high commissioner was highlighting a well-known problem of ‘touts and brokers’ forcibly occupying the visa queue, thereby displacing and harassing genuine visa applicants.

It said his remarks have been taken out of context and misreported, leading to misunderstanding and unwarranted controversy.

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