DUAL CITIZENSHIP AND RIGHTS OF BANGLADESHI EXPATRIATES
17 July 2008
Background: In June of 2008, inflammatory remarks on the status of expatriate Bangladeshis by two Bangladeshi politicians created anger and frustration among the Diaspora. Dr. Hasanat Husain, founder of the Voice for Justice, initiated several meetings, media appearances and electronic communications to challenge these two politicians with logic and truth.
Dr. Muzaffar Ahmed
by qualification (not the veteran NAP leader) and presently Chair
of Transparency International of Bangladesh (TIB ),
an organization that has declared Bangladesh as one of most corrupt nation in the world, not once but several times, and
Mr. Ameer Hossain Amoo
A leader and member of the Awami League Presidium. It was reported in the UK media that he made derogatory and irresponsible remarks about expatriate Bangladeshis in the seminar organised by the SAARC Citizen Council on 28th of June at the Dhaka National Press Club on 'The role of the Expatriates in national economy and their dual citizenship.'
Mr. Amoo was
reported to have said, among other things, that
who have changed their passports for a foreign one,
Bangladesh has no headache for them ...'
TIB Chair Dr. Muzaffar said that 'those who have changed their allegiance
to other countries, why should
we allow them to take part in Bangladesh politics ... they are not allowed to represent the country for sending remittance only ...'
statements have hurt, angered and outraged overseas Bangladeshis everywhere.
Here are some comments that are pouring in:
'We expatriate Bangladeshis care and do so much for Bangladesh ...'
'Dual citizenship does not mean throwing away Bangladeshi passport and adopting one …'
two need to know that except for a handful few, the half a million Bangladeshis
in the UK have not abandoned
their Bangladeshi passports ...'
already been at a live talk show on Bangla TV on July 5, and am being requested
to call for a public meeting on behalf of
'Voice for Justice.’
Dr. Hasanat Husain, Founder of Voice For Justice, MBE
Why does the right to vote in Bangladesh elections matter to expatriate Bangladeshis?
Questions to consider:
1. Does this right increase the expatriates’ ties to Bangladesh, and consequently reduces commitment to their country of residence?
2. How can voters overseas choose issues on which to vote? Issues in BD do not affect them, so how can they vote on those?
3. Should expatriate Bangladeshis continue to participate in BD politics?
Let’s consider the issues:
Dual citizenship provides simultaneous voting rights for two or more countries. This is one of the essential elements of citizenship and a critical part of belonging to a political community.
A recent survey has revealed that, at present, less than a dozen countries of
the world allow dual citizenship.
Many of these countries have not yet formulated appropriate policies to provide people with full fledged dual citizenship.
Although the Philippines is the pioneer in Asia in allowing its citizens to embrace dual citizenship, the proper policy for providing voting right for the Non-Resident Filipinos is yet to be formulated. In this context, the senatorial candidate Aquilino Pimentel III, in April this year, cited the need to correct legal flaws in the Overseas Absentee Voting Law that prevents or discourages overseas Filipinos from availing the right to vote for national government officials of their homeland.
Nigeria has provided its mono-citizens (those who have not received citizenship of other countries) living abroad with voting rights. But there is a constitutional debate about whether it should give voting right to the people who have dual or multiple citizenships.
According to the electoral code of the Republic of Armenia, prior to the amendment of February 2007, the Armenians who travel or reside in foreign lands could exercise their voting right through diplomatic and consular missions abroad. Besides, the citizens of Armenia could hold multiple citizenships. But the February 2007 amendment has imposed restrictions in various forms on multiple citizenships and voting right of non-resident Armenians.
The constitution of India does not allow Indian citizenship and citizenship of a foreign country at the same time. However, since December 2005, India has been considering dual citizenship in restricted form. Instead of dual citizenship, India terms it as "Overseas Citizen of India" for people of Indian origin belonging to, or having citizenship of, other countries, subject to certain conditions. The Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI), commonly known as dual citizenship, is granted to persons who migrated from India and acquired citizenship of a foreign country other than Pakistan and Bangladesh. They are eligible to get OCI as long as their home countries allow dual citizenship in some form or the other under their local laws. However, persons registered as OCI shall not have any voting right and right for public employment.
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka allow their citizens to accept dual or multiple citizenships, but do not give voting right to such citizens.
Perhaps the oldest and most mature democratic country, the UK is the most
flexible in accepting dual citizenship of its citizens. Especially in case
of voting rights, the UK shows extraordinarily lenient attitude.
- Any commonwealth citizen (who is not British citizen) residing in the UK can exercise voting right in its national election. - Non-resident British citizens can register as overseas electors and apply their voting right through post or by appointing someone who lives in the UK as proxy to vote on their behalf.
USA and Canada
USA and Canada also provide the option for dual citizenship in a restricted form, and their citizens living abroad can also apply their voting right.
Let me now share with you part of a message I have sent to the Biennial General Meeting and Conference of GSC:
'.......In the face of 'increased harassment and maltreatments received at Bangladesh airports' and the recent declaration by the British Consular Office at Dhaka that 'if the incident takes place in Bangladesh, the country of second nationality, the British High Commission would not normally offer consular support or become involved' exacerbated by the other overwhelming issues i.e. the acute staff shortage in Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK, the voting rights of overseas Bangladeshis etc.; the new Committee will be expected to act promptly and provide the right kind of timely leadership and guidance not only to the half a million British Bangladeshis residing in the UK but also to the Bangladeshi expatriates across the globe.