Nine years ago, Bangladesh established its embassy in Lisbon and now it is expected that Portugal will do the same in Bangladesh, according to Tarik Ahsan, the Ambassador of Bangladesh in Portugal, in an interview with The Portugal News.

The relationship between Portugal and Bangladesh started even before modern times. While Portugal was in the process of colonising Africa and Asia countries, a non-colonial relationship was built between the two countries. The Ambassador of Bangladesh told The Portugal News that Portuguese explorers stayed in the land of actual Bangladesh for centuries, trading diverse types of products. The diplomacy between Portugal and Bangladesh continued and was rebounded back in the ’70s, but it was only nine years ago Bangladesh established its “residential diplomatic mission” in Portugal.

Tarik Ahsan believes that there is “a mutual interest” in establishing diplomatic relationships, as in Portugal’s perspective, Bangladesh “is one of the most important countries of South Asia.” Bangladesh is a country that is gradually evolving and improving its economic development. After its independence, in 1971, Bangladesh was a “low-income country”, but now it has seen its GDP triple over the last decade, “being now next to India’s” in South Asia. The reason why it established an embassy in Portugal is that, according to Tarik Ahsan, it “can enhance the potential of the economic cooperation between the two countries.”

The Ambassador of Bangladesh, in the interview, mentioned that Portugal may benefit from Bangladesh as there is a “need of people going out of Bangladesh.” Recently, a lot of Bangladeshis are leaving the country for tourism, or even to study abroad. Tarik Ahsan stated that Portugal is a country like no other else in Europe, which interests people in Bangladesh. The weather, the affordability and the “sea beaches” are part of the Portuguese reality that attracts so many people. Students, for example, choose to study in Portugal, because it has lower tuitions when compared to other countries in Europe.

Facilitating immigration

“Qualified” Bangladeshis are interested in coming to Portugal to work, so the Ambassador mentions that they would like “to sign an agreement with Portugal to establish the legal mobility of labour” to facilitate the process of emigrating to Portugal.

Bangladeshis are already coming to work in Portugal, under conditions that “are not bad.” Tarik Ahsan believes that “only a small minority of them [emigrants] were new arrivals in Portugal” that may have faced “some kind of hardship.” The Ambassador appreciates “the commitment of the Portuguese government” to ensure equal labour workers for emigrants and locals. The workers from Bangladesh, are also “a very important link between the two countries.” Tarik Ahsan describes the Bangladeshis as “hard-working”, therefore it is a useful tool for the Portuguese economy, as they create businesses such as souvenir shops, or even small supermarkets in cities.

The Ambassador defines Portugal as “migrant-friendly.” When it comes to Bangladeshis the situation is not different. Political parties may not need to feel concerned about illegal Bangladesh migrants coming over Portugal, as the country is “not in favour of illegal migration.” The Bangladeshis were never involved in terror activities and with a hard-working population that comes to a place to work, Tarik Ahsan assumes that “Bangladesh still has good records in Portugal.”

Economic strength

Bangladesh has the largest mangrove forest in the world, shared with India. The country is also the second-largest exporter of textile products in the world. It recently became independent, in 1971, after a Pakistan management in the country. During this period the Bangladeshis were “exploited” and suffered discrimination, however, the resilience of the people made it possible for the country, after the independence, to grow and become one of the economically strongest countries in South Asia. Bengali, the language spoken in Bangladesh, is one of the most spoken languages in the world, is it also spoken in other parts of the world such as some Indian states.

As an end topic of the interview, the Ambassador called out to the international community about the Rohingya situation. Bangladesh has been receiving forcibly displaced Rohingyas for a long time, totalling “1.1 million”. Currently, there are a “huge number of people living in a small area”, which may bring other negative consequences such as “human trafficking.” In this context, the Ambassador mentioned that no other country had “come forward to take Rohingyas” and he would like to see international help in a situation that is becoming “unbearable” for a country that is trying to handle the situation alone. His country would like to see the international the community effectively encouraging Myanmar government to take back the Roringhyas, and European Union working with Myanmar government for ensuring security and rehabilitation of returning Rohingyas in Myanmar.

Bangladesh has been an independent country since 1971 and had in 2018 more than 160 million inhabitants. The country established its resident mission in Portugal nine years ago and it is expecting that Portugal may do the same in Bangladesh.