Traffickers exploit Rohingya men, women, and children from refugee camps for both sex and labour trafficking, including domestic servitude, although the scale is unknown, a US report said.
Traffickers sometimes transport Rohingya girls within Bangladesh to Chittagong and Dhaka and transnationally to Kathmandu and Kolkata for sex trafficking. Some traffickers “trade” these girls over the internet, the US state department said in its “Trafficking in Persons Report 2019”.
The annual report, which was released yesterday, put Bangladesh on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.
“Some Rohingya traffickers defraud and coerce Rohingya women and girls from refugee camps into sex trafficking through fraudulent job or marriage proposals, and abduction. Local criminal networks take Rohingya women from refugee camps at night, exploit them in sex trafficking, and bring them back to the camps during the day,” the report said.
The stateless status and inability of Rohingya to receive formal schooling or work legally increases their vulnerability to human trafficking, it added.
“Multiple NGOs and humanitarian officials assess these restrictions have increased forced labour and sex trafficking of Rohingya over the past year. Bangladeshis and foreigners create demand for child sex tourism, including exploitation of Rohingya girls near Cox’s Bazar.”
The report said the Bangladesh government has increased the number of security forces deployed to guard and control access to Rohingya camps, which may have contributed to the prevention of some trafficking crimes.
It said the government allowed significant humanitarian access to the Rohingya camps and cooperated closely with the UN and NGOs in counter-trafficking efforts although there are at least 100 credible reports of forced labor and sex trafficking of Rohingya within Bangladesh.
The 2019 TIP report assesses the anti-trafficking efforts of 187 governments. The report invites governments to address all forms of human trafficking with a special emphasis on when it takes place exclusively within the borders of one country.
According to the report, Bangladesh makes good efforts to eliminate trafficking, including adopting a national action plan to combat trafficking, convicting traffickers, initiating an investigation into a police officer accused of child sex trafficking, and continuing to investigate some potential trafficking crimes against Rohingya refugees.
It also said Bangladesh does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.
“Because the government has devoted significant resources to a written plan that, if implemented, would constitute significant efforts to meet the minimum standards, Bangladesh was granted a waiver per the Trafficking Victims Protection Act from an otherwise required downgrade to Tier 3. Therefore, Bangladesh remained on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year.”
The US state department report said the government recorded 592 cases involving 1,324 suspects under Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act (PSHTA) during the reporting period, a decrease from 778 cases the previous reporting period.
The government identified 419 potential trafficking victims, including 155 adult males, 172 adult females, and 92 children.
Citing media analysis of police data, the report said conviction rate for trafficking crimes under the PSHTA from 2013-2019 was 0.4 percent.
It said Bangladesh government gave minimum efforts to assist its citizens exploited abroad. “In practice, NGOs reported the Bangladesh government sometimes provided only the necessary travel documents for repatriation.”
The report, however, said in few cases, Bangladeshi embassies provided short-term shelter or funded repatriation of a trafficking victim.
The report made 13 recommendations to the Bangladesh government on containing human trafficking, including taking steps to eliminate recruitment fees charged to workers by licensed labour recruiters, ensuring recruitment fees are paid by employers, and increasing investigations and prosecutions of credible allegations of trafficking of Rohingya.