Trafficking is a crime which puts migrant workers at risk in terms of physical and mental abuse, harassment, forced labor, forced and illegal marriages, illegal trade and most importantly losing lives. Government at all levels, development partners, law enforcement, civil society, the private sector, and all other relevant actors must make a concerted effort not only to raise awareness of modern slavery but also to take action to stamp it out.
Discussants from different sectors urged this at the opening ceremony of a debate competition titled ‘I stand against human trafficking’ held at Dhaka University Business Faculty Auditorium on 30 July 2019 to observe the World Day Against Trafficking in Person 2019.
International Organization for Migration (IOM) and Dhaka University Debating Society (DUDS) organized the debate competition with the support of European Union, U.S. Government and Embassy of Sweden to create better awareness among the students regarding human trafficking. The event also brought together policymakers, students, academics, media representatives, development partners, international organizations, and private sectors to highlight the important concepts around human trafficking, migration and its impact.
At the opening ceremony of the event, Asma Khatun, Head of Migrant Protection and Assistance of IOM Bangladesh, gave a brief overview of human trafficking. She stressed that with globalization in its full force- the mobility of people has increased many folds with 1 billion people on the move worldwide now. An estimated 12 million Bangladeshis are currently employed overseas. Bangladeshis migrate in huge numbers for a variety of economic, social and environmental reasons.
In 2018 an estimated 8.9 million Bangladeshis migrated internally and an approximately 730,000 left the country through regular channels to work abroad. But according to the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2019, many there are who migrate every year through irregular channels, risking exploitation and abuse at the hands of smugglers and traffickers. Irregular migration creates many vulnerabilities for a migrant such as restricted movement, debt bondage, forced labor, forced sexual exploitation, forced marriage, and slavery like practices.
Dr. M.M. Akash, Professor of Economics, Dhaka University said, “As we don’t have enough job opportunities in Bangladesh, so people, especially young people, tend to go abroad through the irregular process. Those we are trafficked are generally poor. Trafficking situation is alarming now. We need to reduce our poverty and empower our youth to get a good job. Furthermore, we have to aware the aspirant migrants so that they can do informed migration. Most importantly, we should have a multi-country policy framework to stop trafficking”.
Dr. Nakib Md. Nasrullah, Professor of Law, University of Dhaka, said, “Trafficking is a transnational crime. The existing laws are good enough to prevent trafficking. But we need to implement the laws strictly to bring the traffickers under custody. And, raising awareness is the key issue where we should give intensive emphasis.”
The Government of Bangladesh has taken many steps to counter-trafficking such as formulating policies, strengthening task forces, GO-NGO National Coordination Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, Committee to Monitor the National Plan of Action for Combatting Human Trafficking 2018-2022, the Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation and Integration (RRRI) Task Force, Vigilance Task Force, formulation of Counter-Trafficking Committees (CTC) in district, sub-district and union level etc.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) – the UN Migration Agency – has also worked to support the Government with development partners to counter-trafficking through information campaigns and outreach, direct assistance to victims, and working with the private sector to promote ethical recruitment and transparent supply chain management.
Addressing the issue, Sharon Dimanche, Deputy Chief of Mission- IOM Bangladesh, said, “Due to unemployment problem and economic inequality existing in the country, a trafficked person doesn’t take much time to calculate their future financial gains and swallow the offer of the traffickers. The victims are either abducted or lured with promises of a better life by providing a lucrative job or marriage offers and false proposals to visit holy places. It is critical for all stakeholders to join hands and work together to combat human trafficking.”
Recently, UN Agencies in Bangladesh have established a national Migration Network to ensure coordinated UN Country Team-wide support to the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) in implementing the Global Compact on Migration and other relevant policies. Under the Network, a Counter-Trafficking Technical Working Group, comprising of UN agencies and CSOs, has been launched in the event to support interagency coordination on human trafficking.
After the opening session, 16 debating clubs of Dhaka University joined the debate competition. Additional secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs disturbed the prize among the winners of the competition at the closing ceremony of the event in the afternoon.