Italian Embassy declares chess team refugees and denies visas

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A file photo shows Mahmuda Hoque Chowdhury, a member of the executive committee of the Bangladesh Chess Federation. — Image BCF

Citing fears that they will not return home, the Italian Embassy in Dhaka refused to issue visas to the Bangladesh chess team, which was supposed to compete in the FIDE World Junior Chess Championship (U- 20) 2022 in Sardinia, Italy, starting October 11. at 23.

‘I refused all passports (visas)… You ‘refugees’ don’t come back [home] from this country [Italy] after going there,’ Mahmuda Hoque Chowdhury, head of the Bangladesh team’s delegation, quoted the relevant official from the Italian consulate’s VISA office when speaking with New Age on Friday.

The nine-member Bangladesh team consisted of seven players – five women and two men – a two-player goalkeeper and Mahmuda herself, who is also a member of the executive committee of the Bangladesh Chess Federation.

The Italian organizers of the championship invited Bangladesh to participate in the competition and the BCF authorities completed all the formalities to obtain visas through the authorized local agent of the Italian Embassy.

In the absence of updates from the Italian embassy, ​​Mahmuda, 40, went to the Italian consulate on October 4, as suggested by the contest organizers.

“We completed all the formalities, including plane tickets. Since we got no response from the Embassy, ​​we [BCF] communicated with the contest organizers. They suggested to physically visit the head of the delegation at the Italian Embassy,” Mahmuda said.

“Then I visited the embassy and was confronted with shocking behavior from this official. I have visited many countries as a head of delegation, but I have never encountered such behavior from an embassy official.

I was standing on the ground floor, he came down and said, “I refused all passports. He said exactly that. He claimed he was taking care of this issue but he did not explore his identity even though I asked his name,” Mahmuda said.

“When I asked him what the reason was, was he missing papers? In response, he said, you refugees do not return from this country after going there.

He also raised the issues of underage players and said, “I will not issue visas.” I know everything [about invitation letter]…They [Italian organisers] I don’t know the Bangladeshis, I know them very well.

“We are aware of the issues of underage players and have submitted the necessary documents in this case, approved by the first class magistrate,” Mahmuda said.

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