• Thursday, July 25, 2024

Diaspora

Starmer’s damage control on Bangladeshi TV after illegal migrant remarks trigger row

The Labour leader had sparked criticism earlier this week after citing Bangladesh as a safe destination where asylum seekers without UK residency rights could potentially be returned.

Labour leader Keir Starmer (Photo by Cameron Smith/Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

AFTER finding himself at the centre of a controversy following his remarks on dealing with illegal migrants from Bangladesh, Labour leader Keir Starmer has spoken to a television channel from that country saying he didn’t mean to offend or upset anyone and that he was “very concerned” about any upsets he might have caused.

Speaking with ATN Bangla in an interview where he addressed his remarks, Starmer said, “I’m very concerned about any upsets I may have caused. That certainly wasn’t my intention. I didn’t mean to offend anyone or upset anyone and I’m genuinely concerned that I’ve done so. Not least because the relationship between Labour and the Bangladeshi community is very, very strong.”

The Labour leader had sparked criticism earlier this week after citing Bangladesh as a safe destination where asylum seekers without UK residency rights could potentially be returned.

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The backlash intensified when an edited clip of the interview surfaced on social media, giving the impression that Starmer was advocating for the repatriation of British Bangladeshis, The Telegraph reported.

He also said that his own bonding with the Bangladeshi community in the UK is “very strong”, particularly in his constituency, where they work as partners, according to him. Starmer also said that he has many, many friends from the community with whom he works.

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Clarifying his comments made in response to questions from an audience of Sun newspaper readers on Monday (24), the Labour leader said he was simply suggesting that he believed there is significant potential for collaboration between the UK and Bangladesh if a Labour government were to be formed after the general elections on July 4.

“I hope that we can build on our relationship with Bangladesh. The UK and Bangladesh working together for years to come will be of great benefit to the UK and the Bangladeshi community here in the UK. And it was really, for that reason, that it was front of mind rather than any other reason,” the Labour leader, who could become the next prime minister defeating the Tories of incumbent premier Rishi Sunak, added.

On Thursday (27), Starmer was forced to give an explanation over his comments, which aides said were taken out of context, after he faced the ire of Bangladeshi community leaders.

He then went on to pay tribute to the “massive contribution” made by Bangladeshis to the UK’s economy and culture.

When asked about his remarks on BBC Radio 5 Live , Starmer said: “Clumsy would be a good word, I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I actually think there’s huge scope for the UK and Bangladesh to work together.”

His remarks also came under questioning from the Conservatives while the deputy leader of the Labour group on Tower Hamlets council in east London, Sabina Akhtar, quit the party following Starmer’s remarks.

She said on X, “I can not be proud of the party any more when the leader of the party singles out my community and insults my Bangladeshi identity.”

In his interview with The Sun, Starmer said the number of people being repatriated had decreased by 44 per cent under the Conservative government. He promised to reinstate personnel in the returns unit within the initial days of a Labour administration.

“I’ll make sure that we’ve got planes going off – not to Rwanda, that’s an expensive gimmick – they will go back to the countries where people come from. That’s what used to happen,” he said.

When he was asked about the countries he was referring to by The Sun’s political editor, Starmer mentioned Bangladesh saying people from countries such as Bangladesh were not being removed at the moment since they are not being processed.

It was only in May that the UK signed an agreement with Bangladesh “to speed up the removal of migrants with no right to be in the country”.

According to Home Office, 12 failed asylum seekers were deported to Bangladesh last year, while 66 returned voluntarily, The Telegraph report added.

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