The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has dismissed news published by some Bangladeshi media outlets that quoted Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte calling Bangladeshis "virus bombs".
"The newspapers misquoted Giuseppe Conte as saying that Bangladeshis are 'virus bombs'. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs would like to emphasise that the prime minister of Italy never said any such thing about Bangladeshis," a press release from the ministry says.
While talking to a Spanish TV channel during his recent visit to Madrid, Italy's Prime Minister Conte mentioned that in the recent flights from Bangladesh, there were up to 20 percent passengers in a single flight who tested Covid-19 positive after arriving at Rome airport.
In order to ensure that Italy does not go through the difficult situation of Covid-19 again, Conte said that Italy was forced to stop flights from Bangladesh, the press release further says.
The press release also mentions that Bangladesh is not the only country on that list. Italy has stopped flights from 12 other countries of the world, and the decision will be reviewed on July 14.
More than 150,000 Bangladeshis live in Italy, and their contributions to the economies of both Bangladesh and Italy are gratefully acknowledged.
The press release further mentions that, when many countries of the world are strongly following anti-immigrant practices, including sending back retrenched migrant workers to their home countries, the Italian government, as part of their economic revival plan, has decided to regularise many immigrants with irregular status.
"The Italian government has shown extraordinary flexibility and generosity to accept Bangladeshis with Italian residence permits even at the time when Bangladesh has not yet completely recovered from the Covid-19 virus," it reads.
Biman Bangladesh Airlines operated six special charter flights to Rome in the last one month in which around 1,600 Bangladeshis with Italian residence permits (or in some cases, with Italian passports) travelled.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledged, with deep appreciation, the support provided by the Embassy of Italy in Dhaka in this regard.
The Italian diplomats based in Dhaka went out of the way to help the Bangladeshis with Italian residence permits to make their journey to and arrival in Rome hassle-free, the press release says.
After arrival in Rome airport, when the incoming passengers were tested for Covid-19, around 70-75 Bangladeshis tested positive.
In addition to that, the Italian Health Ministry, while testing the members of the Bangladeshi community in and around Rome, found another 20-25 people with coronavirus.
According to the press release, the Italian government has taken all necessary steps to provide support to these approximately 100 Bangladeshis.
Most of them have been kept in a hotel for the period of isolation at the expense of the Italian government, and those who need hospitalisation have duly been admitted to hospitals, again arranged by the Italian government.
"Regrettably, some members of the Bangladesh community in Italy who tested positive for Covid-19 are not respectful of the decision of the Italian government and are ignoring the quarantine and isolation guidelines and instructions of the Italian government," it further says.
"They are defying the restrictions of the Italian government, thus putting the entire community at risk of infection. A group of Bangladeshis who returned to Bangladesh from Italy last March also behaved in a similar irresponsible manner and refused to follow our quarantine procedures under various pretexts, and now they also violated the Italian quarantine procedures creating public ill-feeling," the press release adds.
Mentioning that the attitude of defiance by some members of the Bangladeshi community in Italy has been portrayed in reports by Italian newspapers, the Foreign Ministry said that these news items may create mistrust or discontent among the Italian population against Bangladeshis in Italy.
"One newspaper even published the news under the headline of Bangladeshi virus bombs," the press release says.
However, the fact is that the prime minister of Italy never mentioned the term "virus bombs" indicating any community during his interview with the Spanish TV Channel.
"The longstanding relationship between Bangladesh and Italy has been based on mutual trust and respect. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited Italy in February this year at the invitation of the prime minister of Italy, and the two heads of government had a very productive and fruitful official meeting," the Foreign Ministry press release further says.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the print and electronic media in Bangladesh not to publish any news that may impact the bilateral relations between the two countries without due diligence.
The ministry urged the media to check authenticity while running any news that may have a negative impact on bilateral relations, including on the Bangladeshi expatriate community.
The ministry also requested the print and electronic media to create awareness among Bangladeshi diaspora all over the world, including passengers departing from Bangladesh, for their sympathetic understanding of the local situations, and for adherence to the rules and regulations of the local government.