A representational image. Powerful quarters behind the human trafficking to Libya.
A representational image. Powerful quarters behind the human trafficking to Libya.UNB File Photo

Human traffickers have become active again as stern measures were not taken against them, migration experts and diplomats have said, after 26 Bangladeshis were recently killed in Libya.

Experts said a powerful quarter at home and abroad is involved in human trafficking. The trafficking gang even threatened the diplomats in Tripoli and dared to keep hostage local officials of the embassy.

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The human trafficking from Bangladesh to Italy via Libya reached its peak in the second half of 2015.

Following an increase in trafficking via Libya to European countries including Italy, Bangladesh’s apex court banned the travel of Bangladeshis to the war-torn African nation.

Later, Bangladesh took some steps to stop human trafficking of its nationals via Libya.

Prothom Alo talked to four former and current Bangladeshi diplomats who have experience to work in Libya.

They said the trafficking victims who have been detained know whom they paid the money.

They also know who mediated the process and in which bank account the money was deposited.

It has been proved that the law enforcement has enough capacity in suppressing militancy. It was possible for us due to the political will. But, we do not see any such promise in ending human trafficking
Dhaka University professor CR Abrar

Earlier on Thursday, 26 Bangladeshis were killed in the town of Mizda in Libya and 11 others injured.

Referring to this incident, the diplomats said in the past a trafficking ring was active in Madaripur, Gopalganj, Shariatpur and in the greater Faridpur areas.

Astonishingly, it has been learnt the same gang is involved in trafficking of the 26 Bangladeshis to Libya.

They have suggested authorities concerned to work in coordination with other countries and United Nations against the trafficking ring.

Migration expert and professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, CR Abrar, said it has been proved that the law enforcement has enough capacity in suppressing militancy. “It was possible for us due to the political will. But, we do not see any such promise in ending human trafficking.”

“A powerful ring is behind this [human trafficking] in the country…. So, we need firm political will to resolve the problem at the source. Bringing human trafficking to an end is quite impossible without that,” said the DU professor.

Foreign ministry officials in Dhaka and Libya said many places in Libya are now under militia control. So, they control the human trafficking business.

The trafficking victims reached Libya through Benghazi with a view to with a view to entering Europe. They did not have visa for Libya. So, all those things are dealt by the militia groups and human traffickers.

Bangladesh ambassador to Tripoli Sheikh Sikandar Ali on Sunday told Prothom Alo over phone that “Not only in part of Libya, traffickers have active network in each and every country through which people are trafficked. So, all parties should come forward to defeat them. We’re trying to sensitise the local UN office over the issue. We’ve talked to the UNHCR and also talked to local people.”

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Once the identities of the traffickers have been obtained from the victims, the embassy publishes the list of people behind the trafficking.

“We face pressure and threats. Sometimes, the international gang threatened us over telephone through local people. They even attacked the officials of the embassy,” he added.

Former foreign ministry secretary and North South University’s senior fellow Shahidul Haque said the labour migration to Libya was halted by an order of the apex court in the wake of huge trafficking incidents in the Mediterranean Sea.

The traffickers avoided the Dhaka airport and used the Chattogram airport to send people to the Middle East countries via India and Nepal.

“Human traffickers have become active during a crisis. The coronavirus pandemic has opened a new opportunity for them. Thanks to the pandemic, the regular migration has shrunk and they took the opportunity of this virus crisis to trafficking in the Mediterranean region," Shahidul Haque told Prothom Alo.

Steps were taken to this end. Meanwhile, a large chunk of Bangladeshis were detained in Europe while going there illegally.

“We’ve inked an agreement to bring them back. On information and facts from the Bangladesh missions and in cooperation with the law enforcement, we then took some effective measures. So, the intensity of human trafficking was quite tolerable in the year of 2017," the former foreign secretary said.

Shahidul Haque said the last week’s incident of killing 26 Bangladeshis in Libya reminded that there is no point to be complacent without any long term action plan.

*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Toriqul Islam.