BANGLADESH coming to be named on Tier 2 Watchlist in the US state department’s Trafficking in Persons Report 2019, which was launched on Thursday, is worrying in that this category is the third in ranking among four categories, or five if the category of special cases is taken into account. While Tier 2 means countries of governments that do not fully comply with the minimum standards but are making significant efforts to comply with them, Tier 2 Watchlist means countries of governments that are the same as Tier 2 countries but have a very significant or significantly increased absolute number of victims of severe forms of trafficking, show a failure to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking from the previous year or show that the determination that significant efforts are made to comply with minimum standards is based on commitments of additional steps to be taken the next year. The report says that the Bangladesh government did not demonstrate overall increasing efforts compared with the previous reporting period as the government identified significantly fewer trafficking victims and did not consistently refer victims to care, which remained insufficient.
The report, which says that the Bangladesh government has allowed significant humanitarian access to Rohingya camps and cooperated closely with the United Nations and non-governmental organisations in counter-trafficking efforts, further observes that despite at least 100 credible reports for forced labour and sex trafficking of the Rohingyas within the country, the government did not report investigating or prosecuting these potential crimes. While the report observes official complicity in trafficking crimes, which remains a serious problem, it says that the government did not take any action against some high-profile allegations. It has, as reported, also continued to allow employers to charge migrant workers high recruitment fees and did not ‘consistently’ address illegally operating recruitment agents, which left workers vulnerable to trafficking. Migration experts are reported to have said that if the government does not take steps to improve the situation, the country could be blacklisted. They are of the view that the government should forge an international partnership to stop trading in visas in destination countries to reduce migration cost for workers and to protect their rights. They believe that issues could be attended to if the government brings middlemen under a legal framework and sends workers to destination countries under bilateral agreements, which are binding and can provide for the best protection for workers in destination countries, minimising the risk of trafficking.
The government, in such a situation, must work to comply with minimum standards outlined in the Trafficking Victims Protection Act keeping in mind the recommendations that the report has made — to significantly increase prosecution and conviction for trafficking offences, especially of labour traffickers and complicit government officials but strictly respecting due process. It must also eliminate the charges that licensed labour recruiters charge workers ensuring that fees are paid by employers, put in guidelines for provision of adequate victim care and standard operating procedures (for the referral of victims to such services. The government also needs to attend to the allegation that traffickers are not punished properly as investigating officers and public prosecutors are often biased towards traffickers.
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