The 104 Bangladeshi ready-made garment workers of DBL Group – who were stranded in conflict-torn Ethiopia's Tigray region for ten days – are likely to return home by a chartered flight, said their employer.
After being evacuated from Tigray by United Nations (UN) peacekeepers, the expatriates were about to reach Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa when this report was being filed at around 9pm (Bangladesh time) Sunday.
"Hopefully our employees will reach Addis Ababa by 10pm [Bangladesh time] Sunday. They were rescued with the help of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bangladesh Embassy in Ethiopia," MA Jabbar, managing director of DBL Group, told The Business Standard Sunday.
Earlier, the Bangladeshi workers employed at a DBL factory in Ethiopia were living in uncertainty as they remained stuck in the conflict-torn northern Tigray region of the country.
"Our main target was to move them to a safe place from the factory. Now we are communicating with the foreign ministry of Bangladesh to bring them back home on a chartered plane," he added.
DBL, a leading Bangladeshi garment manufacturer, has already booked hotel rooms in Addis Ababa for the workers.
DBL Group was also closely working with the UN in Ethiopia to ensure the safe relocation of the workers, said MA Jabbar.
The United States (US) suspended the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) for Bangladesh in 2013. Since then, many Bangladeshi apparel exporters have invested in Ethiopia to continue to enjoy the duty benefit on the US market – as African countries still have free access to it.
The knitwear garment factory established by DBL in 2018 employed about 2,000 workers, including Bangladeshis and Ethiopians.
The factory has been closed for an indefinite period since regional conflict broke out in Tigray. A bomb blasted inside the factory premises recently. However, no one was hurt, said the group's managing director.
According to Qatari state-owned news channel Al Jazeera, fighting between Ethiopian government forces and rebellious northern leaders could spiral out of control.
The 12-day conflict in the Tigray region has killed hundreds and sent refugees flooding into Sudan. It has also raised fears it may draw in Eritrea or force Ethiopia to divert troops from an African force opposing al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Somalia.
The brewing civil war in Ethiopia has the potential to be a devastating conflict for Africa's second-most populous country and the strategic Horn of Africa.