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Bangladesh, Australia raise alarms over Rohingya exploitation by transnational criminal networks

Bangladesh, Australia raise alarms over Rohingya exploitation by transnational criminal networks

Diplomatic Correspondent

As founding members of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime, Bangladesh and Australia have expressed concerns about the loss of life and exploitation of vulnerable people such as the Rohingyas, including women and children, at the hands of transnational criminal networks.

Australian Minister Penny Wong noted that the Commander of Australia’s Maritime Border Command will visit Bangladesh to further discuss these issues.

The Australian Minister and her Bangladesh counterpart Hasan Mahmud agreed on the importance of safe migration pathways in the region to curb irregular and unsafe migration patterns.

Noting the growth in the Bangladesh diaspora in Australia and the contributions made by the two peoples to deepening the bilateral relationship, the ministers affirmed the importance of preservation and promotion of arts and culture, and committed to signing a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation in Arts and Culture.

Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud and Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Senator Penny Wong held their first ministerial dialogue on Tuesday.

The ministers noted the warm bilateral relationship founded on more than fifty years of diplomatic relations and deepening friendship.

They recognised that high-level visits at the political level can help take the relationship to further new heights, according to a joint statement issued on Wednesday.

The ministers recalled the constructive, positive bilateral discussions held at the Indian Ocean Conference in Perth in February 2024, following those during the Indian Ocean Conference in Dhaka in 2023.

They noted ongoing collaboration and cooperation in regional and multilateral fora, including the Indian Ocean Rim Association and at the United Nations.

They appreciated the growing strategic depth and dimensions of the bilateral relations.

They noted the commonalities between Bangladesh’s Indo-Pacific Outlook, the Indian Ocean Rim Association’s Indo-Pacific Outlook and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo Pacific.

They reaffirmed their shared vision and desire to work towards a region that is peaceful, stable, prosperous, inclusive and free from intimidation, interference and coercion.

The ministers acknowledged the importance of building regional health security, promoting demographic resilience, enhancing multi-modal connectivity, and strengthening clean energy supply chains.

They agreed on the importance of promoting open channels of communication and confidence-building measures to reduce the risk of conflict in the region.

The ministers reaffirmed their support for sovereignty and territorial integrity in the Indo Pacific, democratic values, human rights, freedom of navigation and overflight, and the peaceful resolution of disputes.

Australia and Bangladesh are committed to working together to find practical solutions to shared contemporary challenges, including maritime security threats, climate change, cybercrimes and countering trafficking in persons.

The ministers discussed developments in the Indo-Pacific and Middle East.

They reiterated their shared concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, which has been exacerbated following the 7 October attacks, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and reaffirming support for a two-state solution.

The ministers also expressed serious concern over the ongoing war in Ukraine and its repercussions around the world.

They reiterated the call for a peace process through dialogue and diplomacy with respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders and in accordance with the principles of the UN Charter.

The ministers expressed their deep concern at the deteriorating conflict situation in Myanmar and its effect on regional security and stability, calling for scaling up of efforts by ASEAN and other key regional actors.

The ministers affirmed their intention to enhance cooperation on deepening two-way trade and economic ties as Bangladesh progresses towards graduation from the LDC status, with Australia committing to maintain tariff-free, quota-free access to its market to support Bangladesh’s smooth transition.

The Bangladesh Minister provided assurances that necessary support would be given to Australian investors, including in thrust sectors like agro-processing, ICT and logistics.

The ministers noted Australia’s ongoing funding for multilateral development banks to support Bangladesh’s efforts to address its priority structural reforms that would bolster development and economic growth.

They stressed the need for strengthening the international financial architecture.

Noting the importance of enhanced connectivity to increase regional economic integration and growth, the ministers discussed Australian technical support in partnership with the World Bank and International Finance Corporation to connectivity measures via the South Asia Regional Infrastructure Connectivity programme.

The ministers agreed to work further on bilateral air connectivity and cable connectivity resilience.

They acknowledged the importance of skills development and training to foster inclusive economic growth, with Australia announcing AUD 3 million in support for delivery of technical and vocational training for Bangladesh’s youth.

The Bangladesh Minister expressed interest in enhancing cooperation with Australia in the fields of research and innovation.

The ministers affirmed Australia’s long-standing commitment to building capacity in Bangladesh, with over 3,000 Bangladeshis having completed studies under the Australia Awards Scholarships and Fellowship Programme since 1982. Working with the UNDP, Australia has provided technical assistance and policy support towards developing a strategy for an inclusive social security system

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