The gang used to send women abroad for immoral purposes and also hold men hostage there to extort large sums of money from their relatives in the country. They used to take Tk 300,000 to 400,000 from each person to take them to Iraq, promising good jobs. After being taken to Iraq, the men were kept in 'safe houses' for a ransom of Tk 200,000 to 300,000 and the women were sold after being taken there.

According to the Ministry of Home Affairs and the officials in charge of BRAC's immigration programme, 5,716 cases have been filed in the country in the last eight years since the enactment of the anti-human trafficking law in 2013. Of these, 247 cases, or only 4 per cent, have been settled. As per the ministry, about 4,407 cases are pending. Human trafficking is not being stopped due to the slow pace of the judicial process and the acquittal of the criminals through the loopholes in the law.

People are being trafficked not only to Iraq but also to various countries in the Middle East, Malaysia and Europe. A number of victims were rescued in Libya last month with the help of the International Committee of the Red Cross. Of concern, the whereabouts of the traffickers are not available in these cases.

Libya is used as a transit route for trafficking to Europe. Many people have drowned on their way to Europe in the last few years, including a significant number of Bangladeshi nationals.

Despite such an uncertain and painful experience, why are the young people of Bangladesh going abroad? This is because of the lack of employment in the country.

On Saturday, a media report showed 66 per cent of the graduates and post-graduates of the National University were unemployed. As there is no employment in the country, job seekers are being cheated in various ways.

Therefore, multifaceted steps must be taken to stop human trafficking. At first traffickers and their masterminds must all be brought under the law. We have to make sure that no one can slip through the loopholes in the law.

Second, the development structure in the country needs to be built in such a way as to ensure employment of the maximum number of youth. Human trafficking cannot be stopped by jobless development.

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