Govt to restrict travels by tourists without visas

Md Owasim Uddin Bhuyan | Published: 01:24, Aug 04,2019


Rackets are trafficking ‘our workers’ with false promises that they would get visas on arrival in host countries, said officials.

Non suspecting workers of Bangladesh are also duped  by the trafficking rackets saying they would need ‘no visas’ to work abroad, officials told New Age.

They said that many Bangladeshi workers were trafficked to Indonesia, Vanuatu, and Jamaica and other countries using this trick.

Besides, brokers also trafficked many Bangladeshi workers to the Maldives via Sri Lanka, South Africa via Kenya, as well as war torn Libya, Somalia and the Sudan, they said.

When asked, home ministry additional secretary dealing with trafficking Abu Bakar Siddique told New Age that they were also concerned over the problems.

He, however, said that the government has taken some steps to stop trafficking of Bangladeshi nationals in disguise of tourists.

‘Airport immigration officials have been asked not to allow Bangladeshi tourists travelling overseas without visas,’ he said.

In March, at least 285 Bangladeshi workers who were trafficked to Indonesia by air for sending them to a third country have returned home. The traffickers misused the opportunity of ‘visa on arrival’ facility provided by Indonesian government for Bangladeshi nationals, said officials and migrant rights activists.

Over 60,000 Bangladeshi workers became undocumented in the Maldives long ago,  Expatriates Welfare and Overseas Employment Ministry and the Bangladesh Overseas Employment Service Limited officials told New Age on return from Male.

A racket of middlemen sent the workers to the Maldives on tourist visas on arrival charging between Tk 2.5 lakh to three lakh from each and on expiry of tourist visas they become undocumented.

At least 101 Bangladeshi men were rescued from trafficking gangs in Vanuatu and many of them were repatriated.

The Bangladeshi workers allured with jobs had to work without wages for months together  with little food and housed in squalid conditions, according to rights groups and the victim.

As of 2 July 2019, Bangladeshi citizens who hold regular or ordinary Bangladeshi passports have visa free or visa on arrival access to 39 countries and territories, ranking the Bangladeshi passport 101st in terms of travel freedom, according to the Henley Passport Index.

Bangladeshi citizens have visa free access to countries like the Bahamas, Barbados, Bhutan, Dominica, Fiji, Gambia, Granada, Haiti, Indonesia, Jamaica, Lesotho, Micronesia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago and Vanuatu.

Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program chairman Shakirul Islam who did research on trafficking of Bangladeshi migrants told New Age that the government should ensure punishment for the brokers who take workers moneys with false promises of getting them overseas work.

These brokers are active inside Bangladesh in collusion with some recruiting agencies or travel agencies to cheat the workers, he said.

Describing restriction as good step, he said that the migrant workers reach at airport at the final stage after full payment of their money to the brokers cum traffickers.

 ‘So tightening immigration is the last stage of intervention to stop trafficking,’ said Shakirul, a leading migrant rights campaigner.

Bangladesh has been put on Tier 2 Watch List for the 3rd consecutive year as the government failed to meet the minimum standards of trafficking elimination, according to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2019.

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