Dhaka and Brussels have agreed on draft modalities of the agreement and officials say it may take two months for the final signing after completing all internal process.
Both sides signed the ‘agreed minutes’ of the Standard Operating Procedures or SOPs at the state guest house Meghna after exhaustive discussion and negotiations, foreign ministry’s Director General of the Europe Wing Mohammad Khorshed A Khastagir, who signed on behalf of Dhaka, said on Wednesday.
The issue came to the fore after an alarming trend of Bangladeshis risking their lives to cross the Mediterranean sea, particularly from Libya, to reach Europe, especially Italy.
Most of those Bangladeshis did not leave the war-torn Libya, despite government warnings, after the ouster of Gaddafi and subsequent civil war.
However, according to the immediate past EU ambassador in Dhaka Pierre Mayaudon, in 2015, "there was no Bangladeshi among the illegal boat people to Europe."
But the next year, the number was slightly more than 8,000 while in the first six months of this year, the figure already reached 8,000 totalling the number at 16,000.
The EU member countries issue 20,000 resident permits to Bangladeshis on an average every year.
But, negotiations with the EU to bring back illegal Bangladeshis raise a question that what is the benefit for the country that depends on remittance.
To reply such a question, Khastagir in his Facebook post, said he finds benefit.
“Yes…in longer term,” he said, the return of some irregular migrants would keep open legal migration, including the issuance of work permits or residential visas for our citizens and available statistics, clearly indicates that”.
Brussels earlier threatened Bangladesh with stricter regulations for regular business or visit visas if Dhaka does not take back illegal migrants.
Khastagir said being aspirant of a middle-income country status, “we have to stop irregular migration, right away, as this brings bad name in association with Nigeria, Gambia and some African countries”.
According to the foreign ministry officials, the ongoing dialogue with the EU covers all aspects of migration management.
Bangladesh would first verify the citizenship of those who are said to be illegal.
The long process involves several other ministries; so for internal coordination, a task force would be formed.
A special cell has also been proposed with the representatives of the Election Commission database, and the immigration and passport offices for the verification process.
But the repatriation process would happen after those illegal Bangladeshis exhaust all the legal procedures in the European countries they are staying in, ambassador Mayaudon had told bdnews24.com.