Human trafficking must stop

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

The government's initiative to bring back the 500 Bangladeshis detained in Libya is a timely step. These Bangladeshi citizens are in immense suffering there.

According to media reports, of the 600 foreigners detained by the country's coast guard on the Libyan coast last Saturday, 500 were Bangladeshis. Deceived by the agents, they were trying to reach Italy by sea via Libya.

Many Bangladeshis had been detained on their way to Europe via Libya before as well. Many had even died after their vessel capsized. Incidents such as terrorist groups demanding ransom after holding Bangladeshi migrant workers hostage are quite common too.

Earlier this month, Shahinur Begum, a resident of Cumilla, flew to Libya to bring back her son. Before that, she had paid Tk 2 million as ransom to free his sons from the mafia. Shahinur Begum was lucky to get his son back. However, it is not possible for every parent to go to Libya. Luring them with promises of a better life in Europe, these criminal gangs swindle large sums of money from the victims.

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Foreign minister Abdul Momen has made a commitment to bring back the Bangladeshi nationals detained in Libya, but he also has expressed a concern. The country director of International Organization for Migration (IOM) has told him that, “Those who are brought back to the country go back there again. However, the trend has come down as compared to previous years.”

The recruitment of Bangladeshi workers in Libya was stalled in 2015. And when it was resumed a few years back, the traffickers became active again.

Foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen has vowed for a crash programme in areas from which a large number of people are going to Libya. He also sought help from the media to stop human trafficking.

In response to foreign secretary’s statement, it can be said that the media has played a strong role in this regard all along. But what is the government doing? It is the government who needs to work out the crash programme that the foreign secretary was talking about. The policy makers in the government have talked about various programmes to prevent human trafficking. However, the situation has not improved much.

A certain type of recruiting agencies is involved in human trafficking in the name of exporting manpower. In many such instances, action is not taken even after their crimes are proven.

We hope that the government will bring all the Bangladeshis detained in Libya back promptly. At the same time, they will take necessary actions to stop human trafficking by tempting people with lucrative jobs abroad. Why would the youth of a country where the government claimed to have accomplished massive development, die at sea, get lost in the desert or be held hostage in torture cells and concentration camps? Why do thousands of young men leave the country every year, despite the limitless risks and uncertainty, needs to be explored. Instead of growth-based development, we need to focus on employment-based development.