Bangladesh and UAE in talks for a prisoner swap deal
ABU DHABI // The UAE and Bangladesh are in talks over a prisoner-exchange deal that may lead to as many as 500 Bangladeshis serving out their terms at home.
“We are exploring the possibilities and informal discussions at official level are under way,” said Muhammad Imran, Bangladeshi ambassador to the UAE.
Mr Imran praised the UAE for its care, rehabilitation and good treatment of inmates, but said language difficulties in particular caused problems for many Bangladeshi offenders.
He said an exchange deal would give them a chance for a better life after their terms expire.
“Our prisoners feel isolated in their cells and lose their spirit to rise again due to language barriers. They can’t communicate and express their feelings better,” he said.
Mr Imran said sentences would not be cut but the environment would be better suited to rehabilitation.
“They would be able to enjoy their own food and interact in their own language,” he said. “So these all are the benefits, which give a moral boost.
“If they remain in their home jails, they can be better merged into mainstream society and motivated easily for a good life ahead. New skills could also be harnessed.”
Mr Imran decided to try for the exchange deal after visiting jails, including the Al Ain Punitive and Correctional Establishment, this month to check on the welfare of his country’s inmates.
“When I met the Bangladeshi prisoners they showed their keenness for repatriation and serving their sentences at home so that they could see their families and relatives,” he said.
Many of them are behind bars for offences such as fighting in labour camps, non-payment of loans and theft. But the number jailed for major crimes is very low, he said.
Lt Col Saif Al Nuaimi, section chief at the Al Ain prison, met Mr Imran and lauded the cooperation between the two countries.
Lt Col Al Nuaimi gave the delegation a presentation on the rehabilitation programmes, humanitarian services and social care provided to inmates.
Most of the prisoners are sent back to Bangladesh when they complete their jail terms and the UAE covers the cost.
But if they do not have any identity documents, embassy officials provide a one-way travel permit.
Under the proposed deal, repatriation costs could be shared between the two parties, Mr Imran said.
He said he did not know of any Emiratis in Bangladeshi jails, but the deal would apply to any UAE nationals who were locked up in his country.
Talks are still at an early stage but Mr Imran hoped a deal would be signed soon.
“Once it’s signed it will benefit people of both sides,” he said.
Updated: December 26, 2013 04:00 AM