Bangladesh top source country for migrants making unsafe sea voyages to Europe

by Sami Burgaz
white and black yacht on sea
Over 62,500 Bangladeshis have migrated to Europe via dangerous sea routes since 2009.

DHAKA, Bangladesh (AA) – Bangladesh remains the top source country for migrants making illegal sea voyages to Europe despite efforts by the government to address the issue.

In the first six months of this year, at least 3,332 Bangladeshis entered Europe via dangerous sea crossings, while some 62,583 have entered Europe irregularly since 2009, according to the BRAC Migration Program — an international development organization led by the government of Bangladesh.

People who chose to endanger their lives in such sea journeys are mostly aged 25-40, according to BRAC, also the world’s largest non-governmental organization.

Restrictions to mobility and movements due to the coronavirus pandemic have had diverse impacts on people’s vulnerability to human trafficking, including migrants from and to Bangladesh, and an estimated 700,000 Bangladeshis who choose to migrate abroad every year face risks in the process, according to the International Organization for Migration.

According to experts and NGOs working on the issue, human trafficking — in the name of labor migration or trafficking of women and adolescents — in India has also not stopped, even amid the pandemic.

The National Human Rights Commission of Bangladesh has termed the act of trafficking an “extreme violation of human rights” and a “heinous crime.”

Unpunished crimes allow unsafe sea voyages to continue

Shariful Hasan, the head of the migration program at BRAC, told Anadolu Agency that Bangladesh is in favor of employment and regular migration but has to take a strong stance against human trafficking, which is happening in many cases in the name of providing jobs abroad.

“We have to ensure safe employment abroad,” he said.

“We have a number of laws and policies against human trafficking and related to ensuring safe employment. But what we face is a lack of proper and prompt implementation of those laws.”

There are more than 5,700 lawsuits over human trafficking in the country, but not even 1% of the cases have led to a conviction. The government agencies involved in the process to complete the legal proceedings need to be more active in resolving the cases, Hasan noted.

“The government should figure out the causes behind this and dedicate a special agency to monitor it closely,” he suggested.

Trafficking to India rises

Incidents of human trafficking to neighboring India have long been taking place and increasing in recent years, and women are the worst victims. At least 2,000 trafficked victims had been brought back in the last 10 years, according to records, said Hasan, who has been closely monitoring the sector for some time.

“Earlier, we see that Bangladeshis were being smuggled into one or two Indian states, but it has now been enlarged to so many states. New routes have also been added along the Bangladesh-India border.”

Due to modern technology and the use of social media platforms, the necessary false documents are being prepared to smuggle women to India, he pointed out.

On July 31, 10 Bangladeshi men and women returned to the country after serving three years in prison for entering India illegally.

Bangladeshi police recently said they had uncovered a transnational network that has been involved in smuggling Bangladeshi women and underage girls to India through the TikTok social media app and forcing them to become sex workers.

At least 11 people allegedly involved in the ring were arrested recently and said to law enforcement that they had sent 1,000 people to India, according to Bangladesh’s anti-crime elite force Rapid Action Battalion.

Government’s account

Saidur Rahman Khan, the special superintendent of police of the Criminal Investigation Department, said that most of the time, victims of trafficking abroad do not want to give necessary information.

Those who are victims of human trafficking through the Mediterranean also do not cooperate in filing complaints, he said, while noting, however, that the police are looking for a network of traffickers at home and abroad.

Md. Shahidul Alam, the director general of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training, termed those people who left the country through unsafe routes “endangered” and not as migrant workers, as they do not follow proper proceedings for legal migration.

“We always inspire and advise people to get proper training for respective jobs before heading for any global destination of employment. We have widened our training and awareness programs to the union and sub-district levels, including making people aware not to take any deadly voyage to any other country and follow the rule of law,” he told Anadolu Agency.

Alam also noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on people’s tendency towards such “migration.”

But the government has extended a loan scheme for jobless people and training in skills as migrant workers to required destinations, he added.

“We are giving loans from Probashi Kallyan Bank, a state-owned bank in Bangladesh specialized for non-resident Bangladeshis, under easy terms.

“Meanwhile, a program has already been designed to provide training and financial support to 200,000 people to prepare them for legal immigration,” he said.

The foreign and home ministries are working with other government agencies to address the legal issues and to ensure justice to the victims and punishment to human traffickers, Alam added​​​​​​.


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