THE murder of Bangladeshi migrant workers on May 25 in the Libyan city of Mizdah yet again brought forward the violent and unfair context in which migrants travel abroad for a better future. A group of 42 migrants, including 38 Bangladeshis, was held captive by traffickers in Mizdah, around 180 kilometres off Tripoli, when they were tortured inhumanly for ransom. At some point in their ordeal, as survivors say, the Libyan traffickers fired indiscriminately at them leaving 26 Bangladeshis dead and 12 others wounded. Libya’s interior ministry, which termed the incident ‘vendetta crime’, ordered an investigation of the murder of trafficking victims and the traffickers. Bangladesh’s foreign ministry has also requested Libyan authorities to arrest the people involved in the murder, sought a smooth repatriation of the dead bodies and quality care for those who were wounded. It is important that the government continues with diplomatic communications with the Libyan authority in this matter and ensure justice for the victims.
A thorough investigation, involving both Bangladeshi and Libyan authorities, is particularly important to end the illegal trafficking of cheap labour. The murder of 26 Bangladeshis has undeniably exposed the possibility of an international trafficking ring that run both in Bangladesh and Libya and perhaps in some other countries. Traffickers in origin and destination countries are reported to have links in government offices that manage or forge paperwork for the migrants. That most of the murder victims have left Bangladesh early this year when there was a ban on travel to Libya indicates complicity of authorities in every stop of the travel route. Such complicity has been exposed before. In June 2018, when Malaysia cancelled the government-to-government labour migration plan on the grounds that a syndicate is exploiting the system for profiteering, Malaysia’s human resources minister that time said that the whole recruitment process under the G2G system was running like a business aimed at benefiting certain individuals and resulted in an extreme economic exploitation of workers. Authorities in both countries promised thorough investigations and changes in the labour migration process, but recent stories from Malaysia say otherwise. In reality, the investigation reports of such incidents never see the light of the day and workers continue to get exploited and tortured. While it is important to ensure a fair investigation of the murder of the Bangladeshis in Libya, it is also a call for political commitment to safe labour migration.
In recent times, the Bangladesh government has iterated its commitment to safe labour migration. In order to translate its commitment to action, the government must keep diplomatic communications with Libya open for proper investigation to arrest local and international traffickers while ensuring that no migrants are allowed to leave the country for Libya using illegal channels. In so doing, it has to take action against the local syndicate.
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