Experts on the human trafficking menace called for forging strong regional cooperation, institutional capacity building, and creating awareness among the masses to address human trafficking and protect victims’ rights.
They made the call at a national dialogue titled “Reach every victim of trafficking, leave no one behind,” jointly organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Counter Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group (CTIPTWG) of the Bangladesh UN Network on Migration (BDUNNM) on the occasion of World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.
Bangladesh ranked in Tier-2 in the Trafficking in Persons Report of June 2023 by the US State Department. Bangladeshi experts also asked the international community to play a more robust role in resolving the Rohingya issue sustainably, enabling their safe return to Myanmar.
The speakers stressed the need for a comprehensive approach to address trafficking, protecting victims, and preventing further rights violations. They highlighted that trafficking in persons and migrant smuggling are organized crimes recognized as crimes against humanity and thrive in situations of vulnerability.
Gwyn Lewis, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, called for ensuring access to national protection services for all trafficking survivors, including Rohingyas, while also building the capacities of law enforcement agencies to identify and refer victims, conduct investigations, and bring perpetrators to justice.
The UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons emphasised the importance of detecting victims globally and increasing convictions in trafficking cases. The international community must collaborate to eradicate this heinous crime, support survivors, and prosecute traffickers, said UNODC’s Regional Representative of South Asia, Marco Teixeira.
Charles Whiteley, Ambassador and Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Bangladesh, recognised trafficking as an organised crime that demands regional cooperation, capacity building, partnerships, and strengthened law enforcement.
According to Deputy Secretary of the Home Ministry, Ishita Rony, in 2022, the government and NGOs identified 6,894 victims of human trafficking, of which 450 were repatriated.
She added that there is a challenge of sporadic collection and analysis of data on human trafficking in the absence of a national reporting system. “We need to continue to raise awareness on human trafficking and safe migration which is a proven strategy to reduce vulnerability to trafficking,” she added.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan, as the chief guest, stressed the importance of comprehensive awareness programmes to prevent individuals from becoming victims of trafficking.
He expressed zero tolerance for illegal human trafficking and mentioned the government’s policies and action plans in place to combat this crime, calling for more holistic approaches.
Md Mustafizur Rahman, Senior Secretary of the Home Ministry, committed to strengthening the National Authority for the Prevention of Human Trafficking in collaboration with all stakeholders.
Foreign Ministry’s Senior Secretary Masud Bin Momen emphasised the need for consistent efforts to address other vulnerabilities and root causes leading to human trafficking, stating that victim protection and welfare are shared responsibilities requiring sustained attention from all stakeholders.
Regarding the Rohingya crisis, he emphasised the necessity of a sustainable solution for their repatriation to Myanmar.
Md Abdullah Al Masud Chowdhury, Secretary of the Security Services Division at the home ministry, highlighted the efforts to improve the migration process for Bangladeshi nationals, such as the launch of the e-Passport with enhanced security features.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated human trafficking, making it more challenging for victims to seek help from authorities.
UNODC’s Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2022 revealed that a significant number of victims manage to escape and reach out to authorities on their initiative, indicating the need for stronger anti-trafficking responses.
Md Monirul Islam, Additional Inspector General of Police, Special Branch, acknowledged that climate change and poverty contribute to human trafficking. He emphasised the importance of creating awareness and international cooperation to combat this horrifying problem. “Our officers are monitoring the matter always. We are committed to identifying the criminals and protecting citizens of the country,” he added.