Efforts on but standards missing
Bangladesh does not fully meet the minimum standards for 'elimination of trafficking,' but is making significant efforts to that end, said the US yesterday in its 2016 Trafficking in Persons Report (TIP).
The Government of Bangladesh has significantly increased investigations into trafficking, with a notable increase in labour trafficking investigations from 12 cases in 2014 to 265 in 2015.
Prosecutions have also increased and the government has finalised and launched its 2015-17 national action plan and continued to fund nine multipurpose shelters, drop-in centres and safe homes, which were accessible to victims of trafficking, according to the report.
Bangladesh has been maintaining a Tier 2 position since 2012 when it was upgraded to that rank after staying three years on the Tier 2 Watch List since 2010.
The US Department of State's TIP Report was released in Washington on June 30, which shows Myanmar, Sudan and Haiti are currently among the worst offenders for human trafficking.
The three nations are among 27 to be downgraded in this year's annual TIP report. On the other side, seven countries have made a leap from Tier 2 to Tier 1 including Colombia, Cyprus, Lithuania and the Philippines where human trafficking has historically been a critical issue.
“Bangladesh is primarily a source and, to a lesser extent, a transit and destination country for men, women and children subjected to forced labour and sex trafficking,” the report notes.
The US strongly supports the Bangladesh government's efforts to address trafficking and will continue its support through the US Agency for International Development's Bangladesh Counter-Trafficking-in-Persons programme, it adds.
However, the government for the third consecutive year continued to prepare but did not finalise the implementing rules for the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act (PSHTA), 2012, it says.
“Convictions decreased, and although complicity of some officials in trafficking offenses remained a serious problem, the government did not report any investigations, prosecutions, or convictions of government officials complicit in human trafficking offenses in 2015,” the report mentions.
The government reported identifying significantly fewer victims in 2015 and its efforts to refer victims to care during the reporting period were unknown, the report points out.
It suggests that Bangladesh finalise, adopt, and disseminate the implementing rules for the PSHTA and train up government officials on its use.
It also suggests that Bangladesh take steps to eliminate all recruitment fees charged to workers by licensed labour recruiters; increase prosecutions and convictions, particularly of labour trafficking, while strictly respecting due process; establish minimal guidelines for provision of adequate victim care and standard operating procedures for the referral of victims to such services.
The government continued to allow Bangladesh Association of International Recruiting Agencies (BAIRA) to legally set extremely high recruitment fees, which may have facilitated debt bondage of Bangladeshi workers abroad, the report observes.
The government also did not demonstrate efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex or forced labour and also demonstrated decreased efforts to protect trafficking victims.
The report puts emphasis on expanding the support services available to victims within Bangladesh and at Bangladesh embassies abroad; use of the PSHTA to prosecute fraudulent labour recruiters; improve quality of pre-departure trainings for migrant workers including sessions on labour rights, labour laws and methods to access justice and assistance in destination countries and in Bangladesh; and accede to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.
The government has reported identification of 1,815 victims in 2015. Of them, 1,310 were men, 315 women and 190 were children. This was a significant decrease from 2,899 victims identified in 2014.
Of the 1,815 victims identified in 2015, police have rescued 1,306, says the report.
It mentions that the government did not provide services specifically designed for trafficking victims, but children and adult female victims could access support services for vulnerable people through nine multipurpose shelters, drop-in centres and safe homes administered by the social welfare ministry.
The government placed an unknown number of victims in government-operated shelters in 2015 compared to nine of the 2,899 victims identified in 2014.