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Bangladeshi Workers to be Evacuated from Gulf

Dhaka, Bangladesh, Feb. 27 2002 (INS News) -- The Government of Bangladesh is taking preparation to bring back about 2,00,000 Bangladeshis from different Middle East countries if the United States finally attacks Iraq, official sources said.

Dhaka has already written to the International Organisation for Migrants (IOM), a UN body, for assistance in repatriation.

"We are taking preparation to repatriate nationals of the countries like Bangladesh if war breaks out in the Gulf," said a high official of IOM's South Asian office in Dhaka.

The IOM is writing to the developed countries for funds for evacuation, he said.

The regional office will also co-ordinate the repatriation of nationals of other South Asian countries and Indonesia and the Philippines.

The IOM provided assistance in repatriating around 1.62 lakh Bangladeshis from Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War.

Meanwhile, an inter-ministerial meeting at the foreign ministry held February 22 reviewed the government's preparation for repatriation.

Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan chaired the meeting attended by State Minister for Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment Mohammad Quamrul Islam, State Minister for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mir Mohammad Nasiruddin and representatives of home, defence and communications ministries.

All Bangladesh missions in the Gulf will be asked to take steps for repatriation, meeting sources said.

The expatriates' welfare and overseas employment ministry will co-ordinate between the UN body and other ministries.

The Bangladeshis will first be sent to Saudi Arabia before repatriation.

Iran will keep its border open to war victims for emergency shelter, the meeting was told.

The Middle East has around 18 lakh Bangladeshis, including 11 lakh in Saudi Arabia, 3.25 lakh in the United Arab Emirates and 1.62 lakh in Kuwait, according to sources in the expatriates' welfare ministry.

-- Humayun Badal - Bangladesh Correspondent in Dhaka, Bangladesh
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