UK, B’desh to sign SOP for B’desh returnees: Masud Bin Momen

Dhaka, Sep 13 (UNI) Bangladesh and the United Kingdom are set to sign a Standard Operating Procedure, SOP, soon to facilitate the return of irregular or illegal Bangladeshis from the UK, said Senior Foreign Secretary Ambassador Masud Bin Momen Wednesday.

“We made decisions about one or two mechanisms. We will sign the SOP soon so that the people who are living without a visa in the UK can be returned. We discussed the matter. The UK agreed to form a joint working group, JWG, regarding migration and mobility,” he said.

The foreign secretary further stated that recently many of our students and workers are going there (in the UK) and we discussed how this number can be increased.

Masud Bin Momen was talking to the media after the fifth UK-Bangladesh Strategic Dialogue on Tuesday at the Foreign Service Academy in Dhaka.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the UK and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) of Bangladesh held the dialogue.

The foreign secretary also informed the media that the UK is interested to see a free, fair, participatory and violence-free election in Bangladesh. The country is also ready to help Bangladesh if required to fulfil their expectations of a “desired election.”

During the discussion, Sir Philip Barton, the FCDO permanent under-secretary offered the proposition to Bangladesh’s foreign secretary.

Bangladesh, however, said the government and election commission can ensure that all the voters can take part in the election. But to ensure whether all the parties contest in the election is the responsibility of the political parties.

Momen informed these to mediapersons at a press conference after the dialogue at the Foreign Service Academy.

He further stated that climate change, economic development, Indo-Pacific Strategy, immigration, trade, investment, cybersecurity, good governance, human rights, elections and other related issues were discussed during the fifth partnership dialogue.

When asked what they discussed about the election, Masud Bin Momen said as they are old friends, partners of development for a long time, they have interest in participatory election in our country. They want to see a free, fair and participatory election where everybody takes part. We also restated our promise about holding a free and peaceful election.

Despite what no other country is saying, the UK is talking about participation. When asked how the government will ensure participation, the foreign secretary explained, participation could mean a lot. One of the meanings could be that all the people will vote. It is up to all the parties whether to participate in the elections or not. There may be an expectation that everyone will contest. But the main issue is people’s exercise of their right to vote. It will be ensured by the government and the election commission, he insisted.

When asked what the UK under secretary meant by conducive environment, foreign secretary Momen said, they are ready if we seek specific help for the participation of all the parties in the election. We said, it is our internal matter. We held elections before. The independent election commission is adequately capable to hold a free and fair election. They talked about a free and fair election where violence will be less. Our say is to make sure about the participation of the people. Whether every party takes part in the election is the discretion of those parties.

To a query whether the UK has proposed any political compromise, the secretary said no such proposition was placed on their behalf.

When asked whether any discussion about the repatriation of Tarique Rahman, the convicted acting chairperson of opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party, BNP, was raised, the foreign secretary said as far as we know he is there in a political asylum. “We discussed legal frameworks like Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT), flexibility agreement. Discussions are being held among many organisations.”

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