Bangladeshi workers continue to get trafficked

Rights groups outraged over killing of 26 Bangladeshis in Libya

Md Owasim Uddin Bhuyan | Published: 01:01, May 31,2020


The rackets of human traffickers still remain active in Bangladesh in the guise of manpower brokers or travel agents as they continue to allure migrant workers with the promise of better jobs abroad, said officials and experts.

On Thursday, at least 26 Bangladeshi citizens were killed while 11 others sustained injuries in a gun attack reportedly by some human traffickers in the desert town of Mizdah in Libya.

Different international media also reported the incident claiming that the family of a Libyan trafficker killed 30 migrants in revenge for his death.

The 11 injured were getting treatment at Tripoli Medical Centre, according to a UNB report.

Civil Society for Global Commitments on Migration, a network of Bangladeshi non-government organisations that works on migrants demanded justice for the murder of 26 Bangladeshis in Libya, according to a press release.

Anti-trafficking activists said that Bangladeshi migrants were frequently becoming victims of human trafficking as key players in trafficking in Bangladesh had never been brought to book.

Demanding exemplary punishment of the Bangladeshi human traffickers after revealing their identities, they said, these cliques maintained a strong connection with the international rackets.

Home Affairs ministry’s additional secretary Abu Bakar Siddique, who is chief of counter trafficking cell, told New Age on Saturday that though the government was trying to curb trafficking inside Bangladesh, it has no capacity to control it in foreign territories.

‘We are imparting training, keeping watch and showing the right attitude to stop trafficking at home but in foreign lands, we have nothing to do,’ he said.

Referring to the Libya incident, he said that many of the workers had gone to Dubai through legal channels and after landing in the UAE they worked for few months and then they might have been allured by the traffickers.

Replying to a question, Abu Bakar said that the government has set up special tribunals for speedy trials in human trafficking cases in divisional headquarters.

‘If needed, different countries should work collaboratively to arrest and bring the traffickers to justice, in addition to finding all those who are involved,’ said a CGCM statement.

‘Since Bangladesh has decided to ratify the Palermo Protocol, that opportunity remains,’ the CGCM statement said.

CGCM member and anti-trafficking activist Shakirul Islam told New Age that Bangladesh government should immediately find out local traffickers and punish them as per the law of the land.

‘Human traffickers have long been holding Bangladeshis hostage with promises of migrating to Europe,’ the CGCM statement said.

‘Taking advantage of the ongoing civil war in Libya, the human traffickers have been active there and they take an average Tk 3-4 lakh from each migrant,’ the statement added.

Bangladesh has been ranked in Tier 2 Watch List for the last three years, with the US Trafficking in Persons report of 2019 saying the country does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of human trafficking.

Bangladesh government enacted the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act in 2012 but its implementations was very slow, observed activists.

According to an analysis by BRAC Migration Programme, 4,529 cases were filed under the law between 2012 and February 2019, but only 103 were settled — demonstrating the extremely low rate of conviction.

Bangladesh Civil Society for Migrants on Saturday said that for quite a long time international human smugglers and traffickers and their Bangladeshi counterparts have been very active in recruiting aspirant migrants to Europe with the promise of facilitating their movement through the North African coast.

The BCSM suggested a ‘strong and well-coordinated international action that takes into cognizance both the demand and supply side of the labour market.’

‘We demand that the home ministry, particularly the immigration police and other law enforcement agencies be more vigilant and accountable,’ the BCSM statement added.

‘We also demand that the Ministry of Expatriates’ Welfare and Overseas Employment collect information from those who attempted to cross to Europe in the past, were subsequently apprehended and returned to Bangladesh and identify the dalals, travel agencies, and unscrupulous recruiting agencies who facilitated their travel pass and take stern action under the Overseas Employment and Migrants’ Act, 2013,’ the BCSM statement said.

According to the UNHCR, about 2.5 million people crossed the Mediterranean from 2014 to April, 2020. While crossing sea in such risky way, more than 19,000 people have lost their lives, including many Bangladeshis.

From January to April this year, 693 Bangladeshis were detained while trying to enter Europe.

Want stories like this in your inbox?

Sign up to exclusive daily email