Stranded Bangladeshis in China face no food crisis: Momen

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen Saturday ruled out the complain of food crisis of 171 stranded Bangladeshis in China, saying the Chinese government has ensured groceries and water for Bangladeshis now in Hubei province which is locked down due to the outbreak of coronavirus, reports BSS.

“If anyone makes complain of not getting food there (in China) … it’s not true,” he told newsmen after inaugurating ‘World Conference Series 2020’ organised by Centre for Non-Resident Bangladeshi at a city hotel. The foreign minister’s remark came as some of 171 Bangladeshi students of Three Gorges University at Yichang of Hubei Province in China have been complaining that they are not getting adequate food and other supplies.

Momen said the Chinese authorities informed the Bangladesh government that China has taken all responsibilities of standard Bangladeshi students in Hubei province. “Chinese do what they say,” he added. He said the Chinese government has appointed one of their deputy leaders to look after the Bangladeshi students there.

Bangladeshi students are staying at 23 places in Hubei while the Chinese authority has deployed one person at each place to ensure food and water supply to the Bangladeshi nationals, Momen said. About bring backing back the stranded Bangladeshi students, the foreign minister said those 171 Bangladeshi students have showed their willingness to return home.

“We are responsive to their desire…. we want to bring them back,” Momen said. However, he said, they are yet to be able to bring back those Bangladeshi students due to unavailability of aircraft. Earlier, Dhaka brought back 312 Bangladeshi students from the virus epicentre Wuhan city by a special chartered flight of Bangladesh Biman Airlines.

“But, now we are not getting any pilot or crew to operate the flights as the Bangladeshi pilots and crew who went to China last time for bringing the 312 Bangladeshis are not being allowed to enter different countries,” he said. Moreover, Momen said even the Biman’s Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft that brought back the Bangladeshis are not being allowed to operate flights to different destinations even after it was disinfected spending 130,000 US dollars.

Against this backdrop, the foreign minister said Bangladesh requested China to arrange a chartered flight for sending the stranded Bangladeshi students back. “But, China is yet to find any aircraft to charter,” he said, adding that Bangladesh Embassy in Beijing remains engaged with the Chinese authorities to bring back the rest of the ‘willing to return’ Bangladeshis.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Ambassador to China Mahbub Uz Zaman said in a statement that International Students affairs coordinator of Three Gorges University Li Khe reassured him that the food supply situation is much better now in Hubei. As per Li, the university has taken measures to ensure steady supply of basic cooking materials to the students by the logistics department of the University that includes wheat, rice, oil, pepper and spices, sugar and salt while big water dispensers have been set up on each floor at the dormitory.

The coordinator said that this is not a normal situation and the authorities have asked the students to stay inside their dorms for their own health, safety and welfare, Mahbub said. “We always stand ready with our Bangladeshi brethren to extend all assistance, help and cooperation at this time of crisis,” Mahbub said, quoting Li.

The ambassador said Bangladesh mission in Beijing has already prepared the ground work to evacuate the 171 Bangladeshis students. However, he said, the evacuation process cannot be completed by the embassy on its own as this has to be undertaken through a joint consultative mechanism and a coordination process with the relevant authorities and agencies.