imperfect | world | 2010

Archive for the ‘diaspora’ Category

Mar 12,2009

As we prepare to go to Venice to start interviewing Bangladeshi migrants - I get news that the most notorious trafficker Ahmed Sheikh Turab - the man who by his actions drowned 283 people in the Med and who used to boast that half the Bangladeshis in Rome were there because of him - has finally been sentenced for his role in that tragedy of christmas eve 1996.

Mar 9,2008

This is quite awesome news. It seems that this caretaker government has pulled off an interesting development.

Bangladesh has fixed a new minimum wage for unskilled workers in Saudi Arabia which will take effect from July 1.

Last week I was wondering what was going on when Mohammed Yunus, our roving diplomat, made some rather obsequious statements when he was in Saudi. He basically said that Bangladeshis are as law abiding as any other foreign worker. He went on to say, rather unnecessarily given his previous statement, that Bengali workers should abide by Saudi rules and regulations. That is easy for him to say so. He does not have to suffer the same atrocious wages and conditions. I was going to blog about it but I thought I had blogged enough about the grinning saviour of Bangladesh and the planet’s poor. He also had a chair named after him with some 15 scholarships attached to it. Here is a report about how well Yunus’ speeches went down during this critical time for Bangladeshis in Saudi. Then came a Daily Star report about the BD government exhorting Bangladeshi workers to behave in the Kingdom. This was followed by a further report about how the Bangladesh government is going to deal with Rohingyas who have been “abusing” Bangladeshi passports and creating trouble in Saudi. So it was interesting that all this was happening - as if it was a lead up to something. And it seems that matters have come to a head and there is some kind of deal.

What kind of deal has been hatched with Yunus’ help? No idea yet apart from the meagre details above. Which sectors are involved? What about other issues? Passport retention? Amnesty? If you are interested take a look at what the Indian government are facing in the UAE.

Feb 10,2008

Right wing Tory MPs and anti-tax and anti-immigration campaigners in the UK have got a new thing to moan about  - the costs associated with translation services!  The police alone use translation services costing about £21 million across Wales and England. And the total cost is a staggering £100m a year.  But there is great news for Sylheti people - you apparently speak an “obscure language” according to this article! Don’t be offended! It simply means you guys are even more in demand than other language specialists! So forget about becoming chefs. Alter your CV to become a language expert. The pickings are good - at the moment at least!

Jan 3,2008

Ruhul Amin

He spoke out against the exploitation of migrant Bangladeshi workers. He set up an open house and free clinic to serve the bangladeshi workers in Bahrain. I made this blog post about him in 2006. He seemed exceptional in the causes he took up on behalf of working people. One simply doesn’t expect that from our diplomats. Recently, his post was shifted to Paris, and no doubt, he got mired in the Guimet fiasco. I was keenly looking forward to meeting him for the purposes of a project i am involved in - but that will not be. Go well, Mr Amin.

(Rezwan reports that his family said he was under tremendous pressure because of all the nonsense surrounding Guimet. Here is the latest about that re the terms of insurance. )

Dec 3,2007

I often have occasion to use Western Union to send money. The rates for Bangladesh are very reasonable compared to many other countries. And today, I learnt with surprise that they are not charging fees for money transfers to Bangladesh. At first I thought this must be some sort of marketing ploy. The assistant then enlightened me that it was because of the recent disaster.  And although I suspect they still make a little on the exchange rate it is a nice gesture nevertheless. I wonder how long it will run..

Aug 5,2007

Recruiting agencies in Bangladesh send around Taka 40 billion ($610 million) every year through illegal channels to the Gulf region and Southeast Asia, where millions of its workers are employed, in the absence of an authorised business mechanism.

And until this is recognised and dealt with, the entire corrupt and unjust process of the hire of labour will continue including the crippling costs imposed on aspiring migrants.
Read more @ India eNews

Jul 31,2007

still from documentary

This bizarre practice of finding spouses for Brit-Bangladeshi kids back in Bangladesh is explored in Simon Chamber’s documentary tonight at 10pm on channel SBS.  Synopsis here.

(How the heck do I get channel SBS? Anyone tape it for me?)

Jul 9,2007

I learnt with disgust that Dr Fazal Mahmud, or Dr Fraud, as one blog calls him owns eight houses in London. His lackey Nazrul Islam Bashon owns three. I also hear on the grapevine that his outfit might have been involved in money laundering for the likes of Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, the extremist Jamaat politician. I wait for the fog to clear on this. In his interview with Angela Saini Dr Fraud pleads that its his moral, social and religious duty to reimburse those hapless people who lost the money they thought they were remitting to Bangladesh. Well it sounds like Mahmud has a ready made solution. Given the value of London properties, he shouldn’t have any problem in returning the money should he?

Jun 21,2007


Photo by Anwar Hossain, Trafalgar Square, London, 2007.
Whilst I always look askance at gongs, if outfits are going to dish them out then they should at least go to deserving cases. And Asif certainly is such a case. He merits this diasporic recognition.

Anwar Hossain and I caught up with him earlier this year. We found Asif to be mild mannered and softly spoken. Yet he has managed to harness the volatile energy of a very disparate internet constituency and put it to good use. As I have said before elsewhere in this blog he has changed the character of activism. Well done mate.

Immigrant identity

Jun 18,2007

Mira Nair has taken Jhumpa Lahiri’s book “The Namesake” and turned it into a film. Bengali, Hindi and English dialogue.  Anyone seen it??

Jhumpa Lahiri

Google her. She is interesting.  (Thanks FH for this)

Look East

Jun 18,2007

Eastern Europe, in this case. Bangladeshi workers might be heading for Poland. In England and indeed throughout the UK we have experienced a rush of workers from Eastern Europe. Lithuanians, Latvians, Romanians, Poles etc. They are employed in various capacities from restaurant staff to construction industry work to farm labour.  As people leave for Western Europe, they have contributed to a shortage of labour. And this is where the Bangladeshi workers might potentially fit in. This is the pecking order for edging westwards!
The cheap polish builder has become a bit of a caricature in the UK. I wonder what the Bangladeshis will face in Poland….hmm.

Jun 12,2007

Here is a Press Release from the Bangladesh Foundation:

Bangladesh -The Way Forward seminar at the House of Lords

A high profile seminar on Bangladesh titled’ Bangladesh: The Way Forward’ was held today (Monday 11 June) at ‘Moses Room’ in the Houses of Lords, organised by the International Bangladesh Foundation and chaired by Lord Avebury, the Vice Chair of All Party Parliamentary Human Rights Group. The seminar was attended by dozens of MPs, MEPs, Peers, representatives of human rights organisations, academics and members of overseas diplomatic missions based in London.

Syeda Muna Tasneem, Counsellor of the Bangladesh High Commission, gave an overview of the Caretaker Government’s reform plans, and was followed by Sultan Shariff of the Awami League, Cllr. Ayesha Chowdhury for the BNP, and Cllr Ayub Korom Ali of the GanoForum.

Other main contributors were Jeremy Corbyn MP, Baroness Pola Uddin, Robert Evans MEP, Jean Lambert MEP, Abbas Faiz of Amnesty International, Salim Malik of Ahmadiyya Muslim community, Professor Mustaq Khan of University of London, Dr Gareth Price of Chatham House, Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, Dr David Lewis of London School of Economics, Rosie Cave of Safer World, Maggie Bowden of Liberation, and Prasanta Barua, who spoke for the minority groups.

Almost all the speakers were in favour of the anti graft operation run by the Caretaker Government, but concern was expressed about innocent people being caught up in the wave of arrests. There was concern that defendants were being held too long before trial, and that in some cases there was evidence of torture or ill-treatment in custody.

There was general agreement that the ultimate deadline of the end of 2008 for the elections should be maintained, and that if the roadmap to be published in July showed that an earlier date was feasible, the timetable should be accelerated.

The meeting was cautiously pleased to note that the commission to decide on land claims in the CHT was being activated, and hoped that particularly close attention would be paid to allegations about human rights violations of indigenous people. 

Lord Avebury while expressing his concern said, “I was glad to hear that the body of Cholesh Ritchil, the indigenous leader who was arrested on March 18 and died in custody the same day, has been exhumed with a view to conducting an autopsy. I had asked the Bangladesh government to conduct a full investigation into his death, and I understand that the exhumation will lead to a judicial inquiry”.
Concerns were expressed about the continued threat of terrorism, since the bomb blasts at the beginning of last month, and the accompanying threats against the Ahmadiyya Muslim community.
Speakers at the seminar also said that the Caretaker government must respect human rights, provide legal aid, and ensure no torture is taking place
Lord Avebury in his concluding remarks said, “The caretaker government has formidable tasks in their hand, which may need substantial help from the international community. The government has already asked for assistance in the immediate task of preparing the electoral register, and we look forward to hearing what response there has been, and what progress there has been on the promised roadmap. If there are other resources needed, we need to know how we can help”.

Jun 8,2007

video diaries from Luton Bangladeshis

This national asset we call the BBC, despite all the Blairite kowtowing, can still surprise. Ah those days when if I hadn’t listened to the World Service, I would feel like I haven’t performed some bodily ablution….

Take a gander HERE.

Hat tip to Dean for pointing this out.

Jun 4,2007

Bangladesh seminar: Way Forward

10am – 1pm, Monday 11 June 2007
Moses room, House of Lords

The International Bangladesh Foundation, in collaboration with British member of the Lords, House of Commons, European Parliament, international human rights organisations and academics have organised a half day seminar (10am – 1pm) on Monday 11 June 2007, at the famous Moses room, House of Lords. The present Bangladesh care-taker government has taken a number of reform steps which have been appreciated both in Bangladesh and abroad. But recent developments have tarnished the image of the government. Now, it is essential that the international community help the present government in order to complete the reforms to perform a free and fair election.

The seminar will discuss the forthcoming election, human rights and security situation of Bangladesh. Following from the seminar recommendations will be forwarded to the present Bangladesh government.

The seminar will be chaired by Lord Avebury, Vice Chair of UK Parliamentary Human Rights Group and Chairman of International Bangladesh Foundation.

(Above is a Press Release from International Bangladesh Foundation).