Mon, Dec 01, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Despite Iraq war, Bangladeshis still want US residency

AFP , DHAKA

Despite anger over the US-led invasion of Iraq, the American Dream lives on for Bangladeshis who are hoping to win a residence permit for the country in an online immigration lottery.

Thousands of Bangladeshi men and women have been crowding cyber cafes or the homes of friends who have Internet connections to file their online applications for a green card, or residency permit.

The US Diversity Visa 2005 lottery is being held from Nov. 1 to Dec. 30.

Washington offers 50,000 diversity visas each year to countries from which less than 50,000 people emigrated to the US in the previous five years.

According to newspaper estimates, at least 500,000 Bangladeshis try their luck in the scheme each year.

This year the quota for Bangladesh is a maximum of 3,500.

The lucky few will get a green card in 2005 which will allow them permanent residence in the US.

"I have been working hard, but I am not making enough money for a comfortable life," said Musharraf Hossain, 27, an executive in an import-export business in Dhaka.

"The atmosphere at work also depresses me and I want to emigrate to America as it's a land of promise ... you work hard and you get the return," Hossain said.

Another hopeful, 25-year-old Munirul Islam, a marketing executive with a foreign trading company, added: "Life has to be worthwhile and I am ready to work 24 hours now for the life I dream of -- luxury holidays, travel and a nice Jaguar car."

Both said they, like many Bangladeshis, were angry when the US invaded Iraq this year, but this did not change their dream of emigrating to that country.

"It has nothing do with my plan to emigrate to the US as it is a government policy, but I felt sad when women and children were killed, and Saddam Hussein who is the real culprit is not yet caught," Hossain said.

"Lives are being lost on both sides with an uncertain future for Iraqi people and as a Muslim I feel for the Iraqi people in general," added Islam.

Bangladesh, the world's third largest Muslim-majority country, opposed the war and said it would not send troops to Iraq unless under a UN-sponsored peace-keeping mission.

The country witnessed almost daily anti-war demonstrations when the conflict broke out in March.

In previous years of the diversity visa scheme, vendors would do brisk business selling application forms and stamped envelopes on the streets of major Bangladeshi cities.

Lynda Gomes, a housewife in her 20s, said she was hoping the cyber cafe operators would not make mistakes with her application.

"I am ready to pay and try my luck," she said.

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