Foreign secretary: Bangladesh to launch crackdown on human trafficking

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Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque has said that a “series of actions” against human traffickers will be initiated in Bangladesh soon in the wake of the government’s decision to ratify the ‘Palermo Protocol’.

He said the instrument of ratification on the protocol is being finalized and will be ‘legally enforceable’.

The comment came against the backdrop of the United States’ push for the enforcement of laws against trafficking in Bangladesh.

“You’ll see a series of actions being initiated by the various ministries on that front,” the secretary said while inaugurating a workshop on comprehensive responses to trafficking in persons in Dhaka on Sunday.

UN Resident Coordinator Mia Seppo and Political Counselor of the US Embassy Brent Christensen were also present at the event jointly organized by the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), the US and the government of Bangladesh.

Trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants are global phenomena which have become a matter of growing concern for Bangladesh.

Obtaining clear statistics on the issue is complex mostly due to the reluctance of the victims’ families to report cases of trafficking.

The Bangladesh Country Report on human trafficking by the government showed that in 2017 a total of 770 trafficked persons were reported in the first investigation reports or FIRs, 778 cases were lodged with the Bangladeshi police and 546 trafficked persons were rescued, of which 152 were women and 91 children.

What is human trafficking?

Human trafficking is a “serious crime wherever it occurs, a crime that robs victims of their dignity”, the US diplomat, Christensen, said.

“At times, criminal networks target migrants seeking to work abroad. Other times traffickers exploit victims within a country’s domestic borders,” he said.

“Wherever labor is forced, and a man, woman, or child is exploited into bonded labor, this is human trafficking. Some people also call this crime modern slavery. We agree with that statement.”

A number of push and pull factors such as lack of jobs, and high costs of migration, contribute to irregular migration and create victims of trafficking.

The foreign secretary also pointed out the challenges of addressing human trafficking in Bangladesh. “Traffickers are very smart and have been in the business for three or four generations,” he said.

“There is a huge gap between the business and actions against it. That’s where the problem lies.”

Foreign Secretary said trafficking exists within the “bigger context of migration, rather than occurring in isolation.”

“This gives traffickers greater leeway to get to people after they leave home for the purpose of migration,” he said, adding that Bangladesh always promotes safe migration.

He said ratifying the Palermo protocol is a “big step” towards addressing human trafficking in Bangladesh.

Palermo Protocol is the cornerstone

The US State Department Report on trafficking put Bangladesh in the ‘Tier 2 Watch List’ for the third year in a row in 2019, causing concerns.

But the US diplomat, Christensen, said Bangladesh has a good legal framework against human trafficking in the form of the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012.

He noted that the 2012 legislation provides for the setting up of a tribunal to address cases of trafficking in persons.

“If these tribunals are set up, we are optimistic Bangladesh will make significant progress in addressing the number one recommendation of the State Department’s report.”

“We believe Bangladesh has a constructive action plan. The focus now must be on implementation,” he said, adding that their report’s “most critical” recommendation advises Bangladesh to significantly increase prosecutions and convictions for trafficking offenses.

“We commend Bangladesh on its intent to become a party to the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, otherwise known as the Palermo Protocol.”

“The United States views the Palermo Protocol as the cornerstone for national and international anti-trafficking efforts,” he said.

“In acceding to the protocol, Bangladesh will join 174 countries, including the United States, who have already committed to its obligations. We encourage Bangladesh to accede and to join other State Parties as soon as possible.

“In the interim, I want to offer the United States’ continued and full support to Bangladesh in its fight to combat human trafficking.” – Report: bdnews

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