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Irregular Bangladeshi migrant detention at EU borders jumps

Rashad Ahamad
11 Sep 2021 00:00:00 | Update: 11 Sep 2021 00:36:05
Irregular Bangladeshi migrant detention at EU borders jumps

Job loss during the pandemic and a lure of better life saw more Bangladeshis try their luck in European Union countries last year when the coronavirus pandemic forced nations to shut borders.

European border guards detained 5,414 irregular Bangladeshi migrants during this period -- a 140 per cent rise compared to the previous year. Of them, 4,527 took the sea route and 887 land borders. 

Bangladeshis accounted for 4.3 per cent of total illegal attempts to enter Europe from various countries last year, according to Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency. 

In 2019, the border agencies detained 2,254 Bangladeshis for travelling without valid documents. The number fell to 2,043 in 2018 from 9,384 a year before.

“Irregular migration increased as many Bangladeshi workers from the Middle East travelled to Europe after losing their jobs,” Shariful Hasan, head of Brac migration programme, told The Business Post.

Last year, 1,25,226 people, including 10,467 women and 15,004 children, were detained while crossing into the EU through land and sea routes.

European countries are popular destinations for Bangladeshi migrants. In the first seven months of this year, Frontex said they detained 4,774 irregular migrants from Bangladesh. The figure was 3,179 during the same period last year.

“Many Bangladeshis migrate to Europe every year. But since legal migration is closed now, many are turning to traffickers,” said Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of the WARBE Development Foundation, a non-government organisation working for regular migration and campaigning against trafficking.  

Shariful said that irregular migrants turning to traffickers was an alarming issue for Bangladesh and the world.

 Migration experts and officials said that human traffickers are active in Bangladesh in the guise of manpower brokers or travel agents. They continue to lure potential migrants with the promise of better jobs abroad.

They said that most irregular migrants going to Europe were educated and from affluent families who usually pay more than a million taka to the smugglers.

Frontex said irregular Bangladeshi migrants mainly used the Central Mediterranean route, Eastern Mediterranean route and Western Balkan route.

Government officials said that many Bangladeshis were trafficked from Bangladesh and their first destination countries, mainly from the Middle East, to Europe after losing their jobs.

After returning to Bangladesh, many trafficking victims tried to go to Europe via Libya and Tunisia.

On Thursday, 30 Bangladeshis returned home with the help of IOM and others from Libya, where they were held captive.

In May last year, 26 Bangladeshis were killed and 12 others injured in an attack in Mizda, about 180 kilometres from Tripoli, where the trafficking ring leaders held them for ransom.

The incident prompted the government to take legal steps.

The State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report 2021 put Bangladesh on Tier 2, saying that the country “did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas to contain human smuggling”.

But it noted that the government had demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the Covid pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity.

Migrants rights activists urged the government to take legal actions against the traffickers to stop irregular migration, which tarnishes the country’s image.

“The government should stop the culture of impunity for traffickers,” said Saiful.