The United States said it was taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshis seen as interfering with or “undermining” the South Asian country’s upcoming democratic election process.
General elections in Bangladesh are scheduled to be held at the end of December or January 2024.
Reacting to the US announcement on Friday, Bangladesh said that although the development was “not a happy experience”, it was “not worried” as Dhaka had done nothing wrong.
“Today, the (U.S.) State Department is taking steps to impose visa restrictions on Bangladeshis who are responsible for or complicit in undermining Bangladesh’s democratic election process,” U.S. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement. Stated.
“These individuals and their immediate family members may be determined to be ineligible for admission to the United States,” the statement said.
Individuals, including law enforcement personnel and members of the ruling and opposition parties, are also subject to restrictions because “the United States is committed to supporting peaceful, free and fair elections in Bangladesh.” said.
Miller said the U.S. actions support Bangladesh’s goal of peacefully holding free and fair national elections and demonstrate the United States’ continued commitment to supporting those seeking to advance democracy globally. He said it reflects his commitment.
Uzra Zeya, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, spoke with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, who is currently in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly. He shared the announcement on his Twitter account. meeting.
Brian Schiller, a spokesman for the US embassy in Dhaka, said the US had previously implemented visa restrictions on some law enforcement officials, ruling party officials and opposition activists.
He said the restrictions were imposed after the U.S. carefully considered the evidence against the individuals.
But Schiller declined to release the names, calling the list a “secret visa record.”
At a press conference hours after the US announcement, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Shahriar Alam said his country had nothing to lose.
“We have nothing to lose. We haven’t done anything wrong so we’re not worried.”
He said the development was “not a pleasant experience” but “we have to get through it.” He said he expects the U.S. government to implement new visa restriction policies after considering the facts and figures in a fair manner.
The deputy foreign minister said Washington has given Dhaka an outlook on the number of individuals facing visa restrictions. “All I can say is that the number is small,” he said.
Alam said Bangladesh’s main opposition party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its fundamentalist ally Jamaat-e-Islami, are involved in acts aimed at preventing the upcoming elections, so the U.S. The government said it believed it appeared more vulnerable to visa restrictions.
The BNP claims there will be no free polls under Hasina and is campaigning for the restoration of a non-partisan caretaker government to oversee elections.
They staged a series of protests demanding Hasina’s resignation so that a non-party caretaker government could oversee the polls.
The BNP and other rebel groups accuse the ruling Awami League of gross rights violations, including murders and forced disappearances, and corruption. The government has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The United States has previously questioned Bangladesh’s human rights record and political inclusiveness. Last year, it imposed visa restrictions on several current and former members of the elite Anti-Crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) on suspicion of extrajudicial killings.
Prime Minister Hasina harshly criticized the US actions, saying she believed the US did not want her government to remain in power.
She also hinted that the United States wanted military access to St. Martin’s Island in the Bay of Bengal, a claim denied by the State Department.
Friday’s incident came a day after the European Union announced it would not send a general election observer mission to Bangladesh, citing a lack of “necessary conditions”.
EU Ambassador Charles Whiteley said on Thursday that the bloc had no intention of sending a “full-fledged” monitoring mission. The EU took into account budget constraints, but the decision “also reflects the fact that it is not sufficiently clear at this point whether the necessary conditions will be met”.
The EU is Bangladesh’s largest trading partner. The 27-member bloc is the destination for more than half of the South Asian country’s $55 billion worth of export goods.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)