Tag Archives: Bangladesh

Queens Bangladeshi community mourns victims of factory collapse on anniversary


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Liam La Guerre

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Gone, but not forgotten.

Congresswoman Grace Meng organized a vigil on Thursday for 1,129 Bangladeshi garment workers, who perished when a faulty building collapsed a year ago, to honor their memory and call for an increase in occupational safety and compensation.

“No one should go to work every day fearing for their life, because the building they work in is not structurally sound,” Meng said.

The Rana Plaza factory collapse occurred near the capital city of Dhaka last year due to safety conditions with the building.

Cracks were discovered in the eight-story building, but were not repaired and employees were ordered to work in the structure. More than 2,500 people were injured after the collapse.

Many other buildings in the garment industry in Bangladesh share safety concerns, according to union representatives. Some of those buildings produce goods for major American retailers, including Walmart and the Gap, just to name a few.

A coalition of politicians and labor union officials that were present at the vigil hope to bring awareness to the issue and want American companies to pledge to increase safety measures.

Little has been done to relieve working conditions, according to union representatives, and they want to prevent another tragedy.

“I think they are more concerned about the bottom line than they are concerned about the workers who have made them so successful,” said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union. “The way we make change is by increasing public awareness of what happened and why it happened.”

 

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Dromm, DRUM lead rally after Bangladesh factory fire


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Alexa Altman

With his handheld camcorder, Gulam Sarwar Harum swept through the chanting crowd, capturing their faces and voices as they bellowed for the workers who perished in a fire in a Bangladesh factory.

“Workers’ rights and human rights! Workers’ rights and human rights!” they yelled, waving homemade signs etched with English and Bengali cries for justice.

“We feel that they are a part of us,” said Sarwar Harum, a member of advocacy group Desis Rising up and Moving (DRUM). “We have to speak on behalf of them.”

South Asian immigrant workers, representatives of DRUM and Councilmember Daniel Dromm rallied at the Jackson Heights Plaza to demand corporate accountability among major American companies that subcontract product assembly to workers overseas. Tensions peaked several weeks ago after a fire in a Bangladesh garment factory that yields merchandise for retailers like Walmart, Sears and Disney claimed 114 lives.

“Workers lost their lives for profit so some organization could make money,” said Fahd Ahmed, DRUM’s Legal and Policy Director at the gathering on Thursday, December 6.

Speakers called for an independent and transparent investigation into the cause of the fire as well as full and fair compensation to workers who were injured and reparations made to the families of the deceased. The group hopes other American brands will become aware of the dangers of unethically sourced goods — and that the human toll is far greater than the money saved by the companies.

Dromm, whose district contains a large Bangladeshi population, believes it’s important for issues abroad to impact stateside, as the corporations involved are based in the United States.

“It’s an American company that really is at fault for this fire,” said Dromm. “It’s the corporate greed of a company like Walmart that allows substandard-type conditions to exist in those companies that they contract out to.”

According to Dromm, the factory, which made girls’ shorts, could have provided better conditions for their workers if brands were willing to raise the price of their items by just a small amount — allowing employees to operate in healthier, safer environments and earn more than the average Bangladeshi salary of $37 a month. Dromm said the retailer’s desire to remain competitive among their price bracket rather than use ethical methods to source their merchandise was “unconscionable” and the reason Walmart and companies like it will struggle to establish stores in New York City.

“Walmart will never get into New York City,” said Dromm. “I will fight them to the very end.”

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com


TODAY’S FORECAST

Tuesday: Overcast with a chance of rain. High of 68. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of rain 50%. Tuesday night: Overcast with a chance of rain. Low of 57. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of rain 50% with rainfall amounts near 0.3 in. possible.

EVENT of the DAY: Trifecta: Curators’ Choice

This is the last week to see the exhibit Trifecta: Curators’ Choice at the Queens College Art Center. The show is a tribute to the school’s 75th anniversary and features a contemporary viewing of three of the 475 artists presented on campus in the last 25 years. Free. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

State’s top judge christens new CUNY law school building in Long Island City

The state’s top judge has delivered his ruling: CUNY School of Law’s new location in Queens is a boon for the judicial system. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens man placed on no-fly list, stranded for 22 days in Europe

A local man was finally back in New York on Monday night, and remained confused about why he was forbidden from flying home from Europe for more than three weeks. Read more: CBS New York

St. John’s dean burned documents at Queens home as officials raided her office: former student

A former St. John’s University scholarship student testified Monday that disgraced dean Cecilia Chang was burning documents in the fireplace of her Queens home on the day school officials searched her office. Read more: New York Daily News

Queens community urges peace in wake of local terror arrest

Just days after a man from Bangladesh was arrested on terror charges, members of the city’s Bangladeshi community gathered for a rally Sunday calling for peace. Read more: NY1

Obama, Romney pumped for dash to the finish

Their debates now history, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney on Tuesday open a two-week sprint to Election Day powered by adrenaline, a boatload of campaign cash and a determination to reach Nov. 6 with no would-have, should-have regrets in their neck-and-neck fight to the finish. Read more: AP

Apple set to unwrap mini-iPad to take on Amazon, Google

Apple Inc is expected to make its biggest product move on Tuesday since debuting the iPad two years ago, launching a smaller, cheaper tablet into a market staked out by Amazon.com Inc and Google Inc. Read more: Reuters

 

 

 

Woodside mother and daughter granted stay


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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Nadia Habib has been granted the greatest birthday gift of all – the gift of time.

The 20-year-old Woodside resident and her mother, Nazmin, were facing deportation to Bangladesh on September 29, one day before Nadia’s birthday, but the pair was granted a last-minute reprieve, allowing them to remain in the country – for now.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) temporarily prevented the deportation after meeting with the family for over an hour. The mother and daughter were placed under an order of supervision, which meant they were forced to surrender their passports, were not allowed leave the state and had to regularly report to ICE until a final decision was made.

“I wanted to stay strong for my family.” said Nadia, who has described this year as the hardest of her life. “I knew I couldn’t break down. It’s scary, because I can’t get my driver’s license and I can’t work. I’m stuck in a bubble. All I can do is focus on school, so if they take that away from me I don’t know what I would do.”

Dozens gathered outside the meeting during a rally organized by the New York State Youth Leadership Council, an undocumented youth-led organization that works on improving access to education and creating equal opportunities for immigrant youth. The group has come to the aid of Nadia and Nazmin by collecting over 6,000 signed petitions and providing the family with an attorney at no cost.

One day after the reprieve, on Nadia’s 20th birthday, the Habib family finally received news they could celebrate. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Field Director Christopher Shannan granted Nadia and Nazmin a stay of removal, allowing them to remain in the country for 12 months and cancelling the order of supervision.

“There is a huge sense of relief that I am able to stay for now,” Nadia said. “This is the biggest present I could have gotten – to be able to continue living my life the way I have been living it.”

Despite the positive development, the Habib’s attorney, Aygul Charles, warns that the battle against deportation is far from complete.

“The stay of removal is not a permanent relief and there still remain many hurdles to overcome before they can say they are permanent U.S. residents,” said Charles. “There is still a big chance that Nadia and her mother will be deemed deportable after the expiration of the stay of removal. Also, the stay of removal can be lifted by ICE at any moment.”

Nadia, who is majoring in psychology at Stony Brook University, arrived in America with her mother when she was just 20 months old, making New York the only home she has ever known. Deportation would tear her away from her father, who holds a Green Card, and three younger siblings, all born in the U.S.

“I was too scared about my daughter and my wife,” said Jawad Habib, Nadia’s father. “I cannot explain how scared I was on September 29. I have never broken a law here and have always paid my taxes. My daughter should be allowed to be here and study here. Her life here is bright. We don’t have anything in Bangladesh. If they are sent to Bangladesh, my life will break down.”

Nadia and her mother entered the country with a three-month tourist visa and applied for political asylum once the visa expired. On the day of their asylum hearing, Nazmin became severely ill and was taken to the emergency room. According to Nadia, their lawyer was supposed to attend the hearing in their stead, but did not. Nazmin’s doctor sent an explanatory letter to the court, but due to a clerical error regarding the doctor’s medical license number, the judge was unable to verify the letter’s authenticity and denied asylum.

In the decade since their hearing, the Habib family has awaited the fateful letter that spelled the end to their American Dream. On September 16, the notification arrived, informing Nadia and her mother that they had to report to 26 Federal Plaza to be deported on September 29 with no more than one suitcase each to hold their possessions – 50 pounds of space to pack a life in. If the pair is ultimately deported to Bangladesh, they will face a similar situation one year from now.

President Barack Obama took a step towards easing the minds of all undocumented residents on August 18, when the White House announced a policy shift that will focus federal resources on deporting convicted criminals and those who pose a threat to public or national safety. The change spares undocumented students and other law-abiding immigrants facing deportation by allowing them to apply for work permits.

Nadia hopes for a day when the Dream Act will pass, and undocumented residents will no longer live in fear and be subjected to discrimination. She also urges immigrants to unite and make their voices heard.

“You don’t know what to do when you are undocumented,” she said. “You are treated like you are not human; like you are an animal who is not supposed to be here. The government should see every case as a person; a human being with a life and a family. There is no such thing as illegal. We are all human. Everyone who qualifies for the Dream Act should speak up. I feel like the more out there you are, the safer you are. I want everyone who is undocumented to stay strong and keep their hopes up.”