Special Feature

Changemakers: Survivors’ fight to end human trafficking in BD

19 Feb,2017


Special Report:

Trafficking-in-persons is the fastest growing criminal activity worldwide, including Bangladesh, and it takes in several forms.

But it remains underreported that trafficking survivors in Bangladesh are working to stop this criminal activity through awareness campaign.

A group of trafficking survivors came under a platform named ‘Anirban’ and they are now working at the community level engaging themselves in schools, madrasas and village discussions to create awareness and prevent human trafficking in five districts, including Cox’s Bazar.

At the same time, they are advocating for safe and orderly migration and informing community people about the advantage of safe migration.

While visiting Cox’s Bazar, this correspondent met a dozen of trafficking survivors who described their ordeals and how they returned home having near-death experience.

“It was January 4, 2014. I was allured by a female broker to go abroad for better future. I was taken to a small boat forcibly from which I was shifted to a relatively large vessel at deep sea,” Md Forkan, a 23-year-old man and one of the trafficking survivors, told UNB.

Forkan, hailed from Kawarkhop union of Ramu said he found himself in the large vessel along with 228 males and females and they were taken to a deep jungle in Thailand after over 20-day boat journey.

“We were not given adequate food, rather we were tortured in many ways when we screamed for help,” the young man recalls.

He said he met many people from different countries, including from Bangladesh, in the Thai jungle and heard about horrible stories how people were buried there for failing to give traffickers ransom.

“They (traffickers) communicated with my family at home and realised Tk 2 lakh through their local agent - Karim. Yet I was not released,” Forkan said.

Forkan and others were rescued by a drive conducted by Thai authority and returned home November 11, the same year with the help of Bangladesh Embassy in Thailand.

“We can end human trafficking. We’re creating awareness among community people by telling them our real stories and consequences of taking boat journey without knowing details,” he said.

Mohammad Ishaq, Sumon Barua and Sapna Barua – they all have similar stories to tell and same goal ahead – they want to help end human trafficking.

“We’re working now in schools, madrasas and taking part in village discussions (Uthon Boitok) to create awareness among people. We are also broadly talking about safe migration,” trafficking survivor Sumon Barua told UNB.

He said if people listen to their (trafficking survivors) ordeals, they will not take such risky attempts.

“We see a declining trend (human trafficking). People are more aware of consequences today than before. Law enforcement agencies are also very active now,” a senior government official told UNB.

The official, however, said there are cases of “willingly-taken” attempt to get trafficked which are highly prevalent among Rohingya people living in Teknaf and Ukhia upzials of Cox’s Bazar.

“I think poverty remains one of the reasons behind human trafficking. They take risky attempts to go abroad failing to get income generating tasks at home,” the official added.

Meanwhile, a five-year Bangladesh Counter Trafficking-in-Persons (BC/TIP) Programme funded by USAID and implemented by Winrock International is now in place working in trafficking prone districts to address the problem of human trafficking.

The BC/TIP is providing robust interventions in all four of USAID’s areas of emphasis – prevention, protection, prosecution and partnership.

Local and national government representatives, NGOs, citizens and community leaders are working together under the programme to prevent trafficking-in-persons, protect survivors and reverse damage done to them, prosecute crimes perpetrators, and engage all levels of society as change agents in curbing trafficking.

Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants who travel by boat to Southeast Asian countries are subject to starvation, assault, abduction, and ransom demands—some migrants who are not able to pay ransom are sold into forced labor, primarily on fishing boats, according to Trafficking-in-Persons Report 2016 of the US Department of State.

It said women and girls who migrate for domestic work are particularly vulnerable to abuse.

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