The economic contribution of high number of migrant workers has been proved to be helpful to overcome job crisis and ensure healthy economy for developing countries like Bangladesh. Despite this positive aspect, the migrant workers from Bangladesh have so many struggles to cope up with difficult challenges including financial, environmental, psychological and so on. Financial challenges mostly arise from their very first step to foreign employment since they very often borrow money for bearing different whole procedural costs including visa fees, plane fare, immigration cost, etc. Getting deceived by the illegal-migrant agents is only a trap for the innocents to experience boundless troubles. As a consequence, workers and their family members plausibly face several unacceptable incidents. One of such incidents we have witnessed in the last month where 26 Bangladeshi migrants have been brutally killed by the human traffickers in Libya.
According to Arab News, these 26 killed citizens of Bangladesh were looking forward to immigrating to Europe illegally, but they unfortunately fall under the trap of human traffickers for extra money even after the payment of $8,000-10,000. To save the migrant workers from this kind of undesirable troubles and protecting them in safe mechanism, the Government of Bangladesh enacted the Overseas Employment and Migrants Act 2013. The purpose of this law is to promote opportunities for overseas employment and to establish a safe and fair system of migration. Under section 3(1) of this Act, the Government and its delegated authorities are in control of all activities relating to recruitment and immigration of workers from Bangladesh for the purpose of overseas employment. However, as facts now appear, no authority of the Government was officially involved in the process of recruitment or immigration of said 26 victims. After the incident, the suspected human traffickers have been arrested – the fact of which proves that the migrants and their families had taken resort to the traffickers for illegal migration. But, section 9 of the 2013 Act provides that no person shall operate any activity relating to recruitment unless a license is obtained under the Act. The Libyan government has already initiated criminal investigation into the matter, and it is hoped that the trial will start very soon. However, question remains as to whether Bangladeshi courts can exercise its criminal jurisdiction over the crime of killing 26 migrant workers under the existing legal framework of Bangladesh.
The Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012 provides provisions not only for preventing and suppressing human trafficking, but also for protecting victims and their right to safe migration. Persons who were illegally involved in deporting and transferring of victims can be punished under the said Act. Section 3 of the 2012 Act defines human trafficking as "deporting, transferring, sending or confining, or harbouring inside or outside the territory of Bangladesh." The victims in Libya incident could not go there without the help of someone/some individuals from Bangladesh. It would be no wonder to find that some Bangladeshi persons were involved in sending those to Libya. It can be said that the suspected traffickers can be punished under the 2012 Act – for the commission of human trafficking to Libya, if not for the alleged killing in Libya. Moreover, the already arrested individuals from Libya can also be punished under the same Act, despite that the crime was committed outside Bangladesh. Because section 5(1) of the Act provides that our domestic criminal courts have statutory jurisdiction to try criminals who have committed crimes against the Bangladeshi citizens within or outside of the territorial limits of Bangladesh. Hence, there will not be any legal bar to take action against the offenders.
False promises and fraudulent actions by the illegal migrant agents must be suppressed by the strict application of the existing laws in order to combat human trafficking. Otherwise, the tale of economic development by the migrant workers will remain a mirage as well as a curse for the whole nation.
THE WRITER IS A STUDENT OF LLM (EVENING PROGRAMME), JAGANNATH UNIVERSITY.