In two recently organised webinars—one by Star Forum of The Daily Star and the other by Brac and Winrock International—experts working on safe migration and protecting trafficking survivors came up with some important suggestions that could help reduce the extent of human trafficking occurring in the country. According to them, a higher rate of conviction in human trafficking cases could be an effective way to curb the crime in the country. The slow pace of prosecution has been one of the factors that embolden the traffickers to continue with the crime. They said the seven tribunals, set up to dispose of human trafficking cases, should be made "properly functional" to reduce the number of pending cases. Ensuring protection of the victims and witnesses is another area that needs to be given importance.
In recent years, the incidents of human trafficking have increased alarmingly in the country. Sexual exploitation of women who fell victim to trafficking have also increased. Bangladesh also has been in the international news for some recent human trafficking cases. The question is, despite all these facts, why do people look for ways to go to a foreign land at any cost? The answer is very simple. It is poverty and unemployment that force most people to try to migrate to the middle eastern or European countries.
According to Rohingya lawyer Razia Sultana, Rohingya men and women living in the camps are increasingly falling victim to trafficking gangs. Being deprived of any employment opportunities here, they take on uncertain, perilous journeys through the sea to migrate to other countries for a better future for their families and themselves.
To combat human trafficking effectively and ensure safe migration of our workers, the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013 must be enforced efficiently. According to the law, recruitment agencies must ensure the basic rights of our workers in the destination countries—they must make sure the workers get the job they were offered, the salaries as promised, have proper accommodation facilities, etc. The law also says that these agencies must have a local office through which they would recruit people. But in reality, most of these agencies do not have any local office and they recruit people through dalals (middlemen) who are often involved with various national and transnational trafficking gangs. So, bringing these middlemen under the purview of law and making them accountable is crucial.
In addition, creating employment opportunities for our workers inside the country can significantly reduce the crime since unemployment is one reason for unsafe migration. But the most important task is to bring the perpetrators of such crimes to justice. For that, all the seven tribunals dealing with trafficking cases should be made functional. And effective coordination between the special tribunal public prosecutors and the investigation officers is essential to ensure punishment of perpetrators through convictions in human trafficking cases.