The government has decided to deploy dog squads at airports to stop the smuggling of drugs by Qatar and Middle East-bound Bangladeshi workers. At present, 52 Bangladeshis are in Qatar jails for trying to smuggle drugs.
The government is also mulling the introduction of a dope test for passengers going abroad.
A meeting of "a committee regarding the causes of Bangladeshi workers' addiction to drugs and its solution" was held at the Ministry of Home Affairs on November 14, presided over by Tarun Kanti Sikder, additional secretary to the Security Services Division of the ministry.
This correspondent of the Business Standard availed the information from the minutes of the meeting.
Representatives from the Expatriate Welfare Ministry, the National Board of Revenue (NBR), police, Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (Bmet), Bangladesh Financial Intelligence Unit (BFIU), Department of Narcotics Control (DNC), Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) and Intelligence Agencies participated in the meeting.
At the meeting, Tarun Kanti Sikder said Qatar is one of the top labour markets for Bangladesh. But some Bangladeshi workers are being accused of both carrying and using drugs.
"We have a list of 52 Bangladeshis who are in prison on the charge of carrying drugs. This has tarnished the image of other Bangladeshi expatriates living there."
Tarun Kanti Sikder expressed concern that if the present situation continues it could have a bad impact on the labor market for Bangladeshi workers in Qatar.
At the meeting, Dr AFM Masum Rabbani, director (operations and intelligence) of the Department of Narcotics Control, said that during scanning at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, drugs were not found in the luggage carried by the Bangladeshis arrested in Qatar airports. But drugs were found in the same luggage during security checking at Qatar airports.
Many countries have deployed dog squads at airports to tackle drug smuggling. It is easy to locate drugs using the trained dog squad. So, Bangladesh is going to deploy dog squads at airports under supervision of the Rapid Action Battalion and police, the director of Narcotics Control said.
Later, a representative of the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry said that two scanning machines have been brought-in from the USA, but they have not been installed yet. These modern scanning machines will be installed soon to locate drugs hidden in the luggage of overseas-bound passengers.
The representative also said that a dope test should be introduced for overseas-bound passengers, especially for Bangladeshi workers going to Qatar. Once the dope test is introduced, workers will be afraid to use drugs.
Mosaddek Hossain Reza, additional director (intelligence) of the Department of Narcotics Control, told The Business Standard that once dog squads are deploy at airports, workers will stop smuggling drugs. The dogs are specially trained to sniff-out drugs.
The dog squad of the Armed Police Battalion, which is deployed at airports, has been assigned for other tasks.
After everyone had spoken at the meeting, additional secretary Tarun Kanti Sikder said outbound passengers will not be allowed to carry medicines without prescription when departing from airports.
He also urged officials to introduce a dope test for outbound Bangladeshis prior to departure.
The meeting decided to hang a list of drugs that cannot be taken without a prescription, at key places of the airports.
The representative of the intelligence agency told the meeting that usually the luggage of Qatar and Middle East-bound Bangladeshi workers are checked. But because of the large number of passengers, it is not possible to fully check if any worker is smuggling out one or two Yaba tablets.
The representative of the National Board of Revenue said customs officials usually check inbound passengers while officials of the civil aviation authority check outbound passengers.
The representative also said that the dog squad will be used for outgoing passengers as well as for incoming passengers, both in the green and the red channels.
On a separate note, the parliamentary standing committee on the Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry held its 4th meeting on September 28.
The report which the ministry placed in the meeting stated that there is an opportunity for more Bangladeshis workers in the Qatar labour market. But some dishonest recruiting agents are spoiling the opportunity.
Many Bangladeshis are going to Qatar with 'free visas', which is a scam. Some so-called Qatari companies are set-up only to sell 'free visas' to lure foreign workers. These are sold to recruiting agencies. After the 'free visas' are granted, there is no trace of these companies.
Bangladeshis face huge problems after arriving in the country with these visas. Many of them get involved in crime to survive there. This issue creates a bad impression of Bangladeshi workers in the Qatar labour market, and also tarnishes the image of Bangladesh.
The ministry informed the parliamentary body that Qatar has a huge demand for skilled foreign manpower. These include agro researchers, veterinary doctors, petroleum and chemical engineers, electrical engineers, civil engineers, software engineers, doctors, nurses and teachers.
Qatar also has a demand for foreign workers in its service sector. These are for jobs such as hotel boy, manager, security guards, construction workers and household workers.