The story of a woman being trafficked into the UK by a human trafficking network in cahoots with immigration police personnel at Sylhet Osmani International Airport raises a number of questions and concerns. According to a report published by this newspaper on Friday, the woman was tricked into travelling to the UK by a couple of British nationals, but it is how she managed to travel there that is most alarming.
In order to traffic her to the kingdom, British citizen Zain Deen travelled to Bangladesh on February 8, 2019. But along with him, he had a fake passport with the woman's picture and a fake name assigned for her. According to officials, the passport had an entry-into-Bangladesh seal stamped at Osmani International Airport, even though nobody was the bearer of that passport, and thus without the mandatory photograph of the bearer taken at immigration. Although how this happened still remains a mystery, even the investigators at CID admit that this could not have been possible without the involvement of the immigration police personnel. But the story does not end there.
On February 14, Zain managed to board a flight to the UK along with the woman. And it was at the UK's Heathrow Airport that the fake passport was finally identified by UK immigration police, who sent the woman back on February 17. Again, how the woman managed to get through the immigration at Sylhet airport and board a flight remains unclear; however, what is clear is that further involvement of immigration police was required for her to do so. What this means is that security at Sylhet airport has somehow been seriously compromised due to the involvement of immigration police with this human trafficking network. Who or how many people within the immigration police were involved in this unholy alliance is still unknown to us, but it has been reported that a number of immigration officers have been questioned by the CID, who have identified some officials involved in the crime.
This case is a clear example of the danger that is posed to our safety due to security failures at our airports. If it wasn't for the immigration police at Heathrow airport, the involvement of our immigration officers with this crime—and the fact that there has been a serious breach in security protocols at the Sylhet airport—may never have been discovered.
And this further begs the question whether more such vulnerabilities exist throughout the rest of our airports, and whether it is just that they have not been identified yet. Either way, the fact that something like this could possibly happen demands serious investigations and a re-evaluation of the state of security at our airports as well as a rethinking of what more can be done to bolster it.