Mizanur Rahman (not his real name), 37, returned Bangladesh from Italy on the second week of March.
While going through the immigration, Mizanur had mentioned he will go under self-quarantine in his hometown under Raipur upazila of Lakshmipur. A week after his return, the district police went to his residence documented in his passport, but they found no trace of him.
Quoting Mizanur's parents, Raipur police station's Officer-in-Charge (OC) Tota Miah told The Business Standard that the returnee did not visit his home after returning to Bangladesh. Mizanur's father had told the OC, "You may find Mizanur at the capital's Mirpur area, but we do not the accurate location."
Mizanur's tale of "disappearance" is not an isolated incident, as thousands of others have returned to the country amid the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, and then "disappeared" from their documented addresses, said sources from the Special Branch of Bangladesh Police.
Statistical data of the Special Branch revealed that more than four lakh people have returned to the country in the last 30 days. However, a large number of them are not maintaining proper quarantine, as the law enforcers did not found many at the addresses mentioned in their passports and immigration papers.
The data collected by the Special Brach and immigration police also shows that a total of 298,333 people have entered Bangladesh from March 1 to 21, and most among them arrived from countries affected by the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
Additional Inspector General and also the Chief of Special Branch, Mir Shahidul Islam said, "Most of the returnees used their native homes as permanent addresses while obtaining their passports. "But a large number of them have not stayed at addresses mentioned in their passports for years. As a result, those returnees are not available at their documented addresses, and finding them has now become a big challenge."
A superintendent of police from the Special Branch, on condition of anonymity, told The Business Standard, "The police have found only 8 percent of the recent returnees at their documented addresses across the country.
"Most of the returnees dodged the immigration department by mentioning fake addresses on documents. At least two-third of them changed their location in fear of getting quarantined, and most of them are from the Dhaka city, Dhaka district, Chattogram, Jashore, Cumilla, Brahmanbaria, Noakhali, and Satkhira."
Among them, 33,020 returned to the Dhaka city, 14,389 to the Dhaka district, 20,184 to Chattogram district, 16,047 to Cumilla, 16,450 to Jashore, 12,085 to Brahmanbaria 10,260 to Satkhira and 6,944 to Noakhali from March 1 to 21.
Additional Superintendent of Cumilla district police, Abdullah Al Mamun said, "We are also in an uncomfortable situation as we could not track down most of the expatriates who returned home recently.
"Now, we are relentlessly searching for them. We also managed to track down a few. The recent returnees who disappeared from their documented addresses have been asked to submit their present locations to us."
He added that the police will enforce the law by finding and punishing those returnees in accordance with the Infectious Diseases (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018. Md Noman Hossain Prince, Upazila Nirbahi Officer of Karnaphuli under Chattogram, said they are also trying to track down the current locations of these returnees.
"Any information about these returnees will be submitted to the respective authorities so that home quarantine can be enforced," he added. Police have also urged expatriates who have entered the country on or after March 1 to inform authorities about their permanent addresses, if it is different than the one mentioned in their passports.
The police headquarters also said most of the expatriates returning to the country within this period are not staying at the addresses mentioned in their passports.
Instead, they are wandering around, which is very risky under the current circumstances.
This is why the police have requested all expatriates to submit their contact numbers and current addresses to the nearest police station. Anyone on behalf of the expatriates can also submit the information to the police.
Sohel Rana, AIG (media) of Police Headquarters said, "Legal action, under the Infectious Diseases (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018, will be taken against anyone who does not follow this directive. Also, their passports will be rescinded if necessary."