Bangladeshis desperate to go to Italy by alternative routes

The Mediterranean had been a common route for illegally entering Europe. The route is still being used but with a step up in surveillance, human traffickers are now using alternative routes through the Balkan states Bosnia, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia.

This trafficking syndicate basically is sending people to Italy from Croatia via the Adriatic Sea. The number of Bangladeshis going through this new route to Italy increased five-fold over the past three years.

News first leaked out a couple of weeks ago about 300 Bangladeshis holed up in an abandoned building and in a forest near the town Velika Kladusa in Bosnia, near the Croatian border. After that, various sources said since 2018 there had been a steadily increasing number of Bangladeshis going to Italy via Croatia through the Balkan states including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Slovenia.

Advertisement

Contacting officials of several UN agencies over the past few days, it was learnt that at least the names of 65,000 persons seeking migration had been registered in Bosnia from January 2018 till 30 September this year. Their final destination was Italy. In just the first 9 months of this year, 13,470 had been registered. Among them, 2,553 Bangladeshis reached Bosnia in those 9 months. Yet in 2018, only 418 Bangladeshis has reached Bosnia.

Officials of the International Organisation for Migration (OIM) said that whether legal or illegal, the names of these migrants have to be registered in Bosnia.

In reply to an e-mail sent by this correspondent, the IOM office in Bosnia sent a record regarding those who had registered their names with this UN agency. It showed that for three years, topping the list of those coming to Bosnia to go on to Italy, were people from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Bangladesh, Algeria and Morocco. This year the list is topped by persons from Afghanistan and Pakistan, followed by Bangladesh.

The IOM chief of mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Peter Van der Auweraert, visited Velika Kladusa on 2 October and confirmed that the majority of the migrants were Bangladeshis
Advertisement

Speaking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, the IOM chief of mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Peter Van der Auweraert, said that human traffickers took people up to Bosnia to send them on to Italy. They are taken to the Croatian border after which they cross the Adriatic Sea to Italy. Over the past three years, the number of Bangladeshis reaching Bosnia has gone up by five times.

The international news agency first broke the news towards the end of last month about thousands of Bangladeshis trapped in Bosnian forests. It was learnt that 500 aspiring migrants, including 300 Bangladeshis, were holed up in an abandoned building and in a forest near the town Velika Kladusa in Bosnia. This report basically confirmed that after the Mediterranean, the human traffickers were now using the Balkan state Bosnia, Serbia, Slovenia and Croatia and a major route.

A source in the UN told Prothom Alo on Saturday, from the presence of Bangladeshis in Bosnia over the past three years, it is clear that an organised gang of human traffickers were operating extremely efficiently in Bangladesh
Advertisement

The IOM chief of mission in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Peter Van der Auweraert, visited Velika Kladusa on 2 October and confirmed that the majority of the migrants were Bangladeshis. He spoke to the Bangladeshis while there.

Peter Van der Auweraert on Friday told Prothom Alo, “Speaking to the Bangladeshis, I learnt that each of them had paid from 5,000 to 10,000 euro or 7000 to 12,000 dollars to reach Bosnia to go on to Italy.” He said they hadn’t explained clearly to him the routes through which they started this journey. But most of them started for the Balkan states after reaching Turkey. From Turkey then travelled to Greece and then chose from two routes. One route was Greece-Albania-Montenegro-Bosnia, and the other was Greece-North Macedonia-Serbia-Bosnia. Around 80 per cent of the Bangladeshis reaching Bosnia had come through North Macedonia and 20 per cent through Albania.

A source in the UN, on condition of anonymity, speaking to Prothom Alo on Saturday, said from the presence of Bangladeshis in Bosnia over the past three years, it is clear that an organised gang of human traffickers were operating extremely efficiently in Bangladesh. It would otherwise not have been possible for the number of these migrants to shoot up from 400 to 2,500 in just three years.

This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English version by Ayesha Kabir