Libya bans Bangladesh workers
Employment dearth forces many Bangladeshi expatriates in Libya to take risky voyage through the Mediterranean Sea for jobs in some European countries, especially Greece and Italy.
Some are leaving Libya by their own choice, while some are lured by others to take on such perilous journeys for European countries, said migrants and officials at Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli.
However, the Bangladeshis' exit route might be closed now as the Libyan official government on Saturday banned their entry into that country.
"Bangladeshi workers will be banned from entering Libya," reports Reuters quoting Hatem Uraibi, spokesman for Libya's internationally recognised government, which has been based in the east since losing control of the capital Tripoli last year.
"They [Bangladeshis] come for work for Libyan firms but then embark on illegal migration [to Europe]. The ban is part of government efforts to fight illegal emigration," Hatem alleged.
ASM Ashraful Islam, counsellor (labour wing) at the Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli, yesterday confirmed to The Daily Star about the Libyan authorities' decision.
Ashraful however claimed he had no idea of the Bangladeshis' illegal move towards the European countries through the Mediterranean Sea.
But the Italian coastguard last April rescued a Bangladeshi migrant with Africans from a boat in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Some Bangladeshis told me that they were not getting salary for six or seven months. Some others have lost jobs as their employers closed the factories amid nonstop conflicts,” the counsellor mentioned.
Libya, an oil-rich country gripped by violence and a breakdown of state authority four years after the ousting of Muammar Gaddafi, has turned into a major hub for human traffickers smuggling African migrants by boat to Italy, says the Reuters report.
As many as 900 people may have died last month off the Libyan coast when their packed boat capsized as they were trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, the report says, adding that many thousands more have managed to make the crossing in an almost daily exodus of boats.
Around 50,000 Bangladeshis are currently working in Libya mainly at construction and oil field sites, according to the Bangladesh embassy.
Last March, a militia group loyal to IS kidnapped nine foreigners including two Bangladeshis from Benghazi. However, the Bangladeshis were later released and they returned home last month.
As there is no legal way for the Bangladeshis to enter the European countries from Libya, they are trying to go there illegally with the assistances of brokers, according to some migrants.
“I have recently learned that some Bangladeshis were rescued by local army in Benghazi from a network of human traffickers, who were sending them for Italy,” Jasim Uddin, a Bangladeshi worker, told The Daily Star over phone.
For such desperate move, some of the fortune seekers were also becoming targets of human traffickers, he added.
It could not be known how many Bangladeshis could reach the European countries illegally.
“More than 4,000 Bangladeshis left Libya in search of jobs in Italy last year. But we don't have a concrete number of them. They have gone secretly,” an official at the embassy told The Daily Star over phone.
As Libya is now witnessing internal conflicts, brokers and traffickers can easily cash in on the situation to exploit the jobseekers, he said preferring not to be named.
A recent report of the Amnesty International says migrants in Libya face “cruelty” and abuse, driving many people to risk their lives in dangerous Mediterranean crossings aimed at reaching sanctuary in Europe.
“The ghastly conditions for migrants, coupled with spiralling lawlessness and armed conflicts raging within the country, make clear just how dangerous life in Libya is today,” said Amnesty's Philip Luther.
Upon the international organisations' pressure on the Libyan interim national coalition government in 2012, the Libyan security forces reportedly investigated a trafficking ring that was moving Bangladeshi and Somali victims across the Egypt-Libya border and placing them in slave-like conditions on a Libyan farm, said UNHCR.