Mission sets up emergency center for Bangladesh workers caught in Libyan conflict

Illegal migrants sit inside the Ganzour shelter after being transferred from in the airport road due to fighting in the Libyan capital Tripoli on September 5, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2018
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Mission sets up emergency center for Bangladesh workers caught in Libyan conflict

  • The wave of violence has also affected those Bangladeshis who have been living in Libya for many years
  • A round-the-clock control room service has been set up by the Bangladesh mission in Tripoli to protect Bangladeshi migrant workers since the latest clashes began

DHAKA: Construction worker Nurul Alam, 27, who became stranded in Tripoli, unable to move due to heavy gunfire surrounding his hideout, is one of 25 Bangladeshi migrant workers who have been rescued thanks to a 24-hour control center set up in the Libyan capital.
He was rescued after he contacted the Bangladesh Embassy for help.
His mother Jainab Akhter, 59, said her son had been living in Tripoli for four years, working for a construction company when he became stranded at Khalid Farjan in the city, trying to eke out his stockpile of food, but in such a vulnerable position that he did not dare to leave his hiding place.
“Due to heavy gunfighting, Alam could not come out on the streets to find a safer place. Although Alam talked to us every day from that stranded situation, it was like a nightmare for me. I prayed every moment to Almighty Allah to save my son’s life,” said Akhter.
Alam and three other Bangladeshi migrant workers were caught in sporadic battles between rival groups in Tripoli this month. After Alam contacted the Bangladesh Embassy for help they were rescued and taken to a safer location nearby.
A round-the-clock control room service has been set up by the Bangladesh mission in Tripoli to protect Bangladeshi migrant workers since the latest clashes began.
“So far, we have rescued around 25 Bangladeshi workers from different areas of Tripoli,” says Ashraful Islam, the first secretary of Bangladesh mission in Libya.
Islam told Arab News that when they receive an emergency call from a Bangladeshi worker, the mission immediately contacts the local Red Cross. The Red Cross initiates a cease-fire for few minutes by negotiating with the battling groups, then evacuates the stranded individuals.
“We will continue to run this emergency control room service until the situation returns to normal,” Islam added.
Around 8,000 Bangladeshi workers currently live in Tripoli, mostly unskilled migrant workers, Islam said.
“So far we have not received any information of Bangladeshi workers’ casualties resulting from recent clashes and our citizens are still in a comparatively safe position,” he said.
The wave of violence has also affected those Bangladeshis who have been living in Libya for many years. One such is Abdul Mannan Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi who has lived in Libya since 2009.
“One of the rival groups have taken my personal car to fight in the battle. Ten days have passed and they have still not returned my car,” he said.
The expat Bangladeshi businessman added that a state of anarchy now existed in the country. “I don’t feel secure in any part of this country, but I cannot leave as I have already invested a significant amount of money in business. We have been running for the past few years due to security concerns,” added Chowdhury.
Around 30,000 Bangladeshi expats currently live in Libya. The country stopped issuing visas to Bangladeshi workers in May 2015 following reports of illegal human trafficking. In recent years, hundreds of Bangladeshi migrant workers traveled to Italy from Libya through the risky boat journey.
Before the Libyan war, around 60,000 Bangladeshi workers worked for Libyan companies.


4 Democratic women of color slam Trump for ‘bigoted remarks’

Updated 49 min 52 sec ago
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4 Democratic women of color slam Trump for ‘bigoted remarks’

WASHINGTON: Defiant in the face of widespread censure, President Donald Trump escalated his demand for four Democratic congresswomen of color to leave the US “right now,” stoking the discord that helped send him to the White House and claiming “many people agree with me.”
The four lawmakers fired back, condemning what they called “xenophobic bigoted remarks” and renewing calls for Democrats to begin impeachment proceedings.
Trump had called on the four to “go back” to their “broken and crime-infested” countries in tweets that have been widely denounced as racist . His remarks were directed at Reps. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are American citizens, and three of the four were born in the US
The episode served notice that Trump is willing to again rely on incendiary rhetoric on issues of race and immigration to preserve his political base in the leadup to the 2020 election. He shrugged off the criticism.
“It doesn’t concern me because many people agree with me,” Trump said Monday at the White House. “A lot of people love it, by the way.”
At the Capitol, there was near unanimous condemnation from Democrats and a rumble of discontent from a subset of Republicans, but notably not from the party’s congressional leaders.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who said Trump’s campaign slogan truly means he wants to “make America white again,” announced Monday that the House would vote on a resolution condemning his new comments . The resolution “strongly condemns” Trump’s “racist comments” and says they “have legitimized and increased fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color.”
In response, Trump tweeted anew Tuesday about the four congresswomen: “Why isn’t the House voting to rebuke the filthy and hate laced things they have said? Because they are the Radical Left, and the Democrats are afraid to take them on. Sad!“
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, the party’s White House nominee in 2012 and now one of the president’s most vocal GOP critics, said Monday that Trump’s comments were “destructive, demeaning, and disunifying.”
Trump dug in. “If you’re not happy in the US, if you’re complaining all the time, you can leave, you can leave right now,” he said.
His words, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, may have been partly meant to widen the divides within the House Democratic caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how best to oppose his policies. And while Trump’s attacks brought Democrats together in defense of their colleagues, his allies noted he was also having some success in making the progressive lawmakers the face of their party.
The Republican president questioned whether Democrats should “want to wrap” themselves around this group of four people as he recited a list of the quartet’s most controversial statements.
At a news conference with her three colleagues, Pressley referred to Trump as “the occupant of our White House” instead of president.
“He does not embody the grace, the empathy, the compassion, the integrity that that office requires and that the American people deserve,” she said, encouraging people “not take the bait.” Pressley said Trump’s comments were “a disruptive distraction from the issues of care, concern and consequence to the American people” — prescription drug prices, affordable housing, health care.”
Omar, a naturalized US citizen born in Somalia, accused him of “openly violating” the Constitution and sounded the call for impeachment proceedings.
Ocasio-Cortez said Trump “does not know how to defend his policies and so what he does is attack us personally.”
The Senate’s top Democrat, Chuck Schumer of New York, said his party would also try to force a vote in the GOP-controlled chamber.
Trump, who won the presidency in 2016 in part by energizing disaffected voters with inflammatory racial rhetoric, made clear he has no intention of backing away from that strategy in 2020.
“The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four ‘progressives,’ but now they are forced to embrace them,” he tweeted Monday afternoon. “That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!“
Trump has faced few consequences for such attacks in the past. They typically earn him cycles of wall-to-wall media attention. He is wagering that his most steadfast supporters will be energized by the controversy as much, or if not more so, than the opposition.
The president has told aides that he was giving voice to what many of his supporters believe — that they are tired of people, including immigrants, disrespecting their country, according to three Republicans close to the White House who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations.
Trump singled out Omar, in particular, accusing her of having “hatred” for Israel and expressing “love” for “enemies like Al-Qaeda.”
“These are people that, in my opinion, hate our country,” he said.
Omar, in an interview, once laughed about how a college professor had spoken of Al-Qaeda with an intensity she said was not used to describe “America,” “England” or “The Army.”
Republicans largely trod carefully with their responses.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a close ally of the president who golfed with him over the weekend, advised him to “aim higher” during an appearance on Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends,” even as he accused the four Democrats of being “anti-Semitic” and “anti-American.”
Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, said “I don’t think that the president’s intent in any way is racist,” pointing to Trump’s decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan, as his transportation secretary.
Chao is one of the few minorities among the largely white and male aides in high-profile roles in Trump’s administration. She is the wife of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who declined comment Monday on Trump’s attacks.
Among the few GOP lawmakers commenting Monday, Rep. Pete Olson of Texas said Trump’s tweets were “not reflective of the values of the 1,000,000+ people” in his district. “I urge our President immediately disavow his comments,” he wrote.
In an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll from February 2017, half of Americans said the mixing of culture and values from around the world is an important part of America’s identity as a nation. About a third said the same of a culture established by early European immigrants.
But partisans in that poll were divided over these aspects of America’s identity. About two-thirds of Democrats but only about a third of Republicans thought the mixing of world cultures was important to the country’s identity. By comparison, nearly half of Republicans but just about a quarter of Democrats saw the culture of early European immigrants as important to the nation.