Victims of human trafficking thrown in jail
A report published on Wednesday shows just how vulnerable Bangladeshi migrant workers are to becoming victims of human trafficking, and sadly, how totally devoid of support they are from their own government, even after becoming victims of criminal activities. Out of 107 migrants who were deported from Vietnam on August 18, 81—instead of being reunited with their families at the end of their 14-day quarantine—have been incarcerated instead. They were arrested under the dubious Section 54 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which allows the state to detain those suspected of "tarnishing the country's image abroad."
Some of these returnee migrants spoke about how Bangladeshi and Vietnamese manpower brokers, in connivance with Bangladeshi recruiting and travel agents, arranged fake job documents and sent them to Vietnam over the past year. However, once they reached the country, their passports were taken away, and they were beaten up when they refused to stay and work. The "crime" they were accused of in Vietnam involved holding demonstrations in front of the Bangladesh embassy demanding justice and repatriation.
After suffering such hardships, one would expect these workers to receive assistance from the Bangladeshi authorities, especially after being sent home. Instead, the arresting SI argued that these trafficking victims are likely to engage in various crimes including robbery, family violence, killing and militancy, if they are released. On what grounds can this claim be made, especially when there is no clear proof of these workers being prosecuted for violating any laws in Vietnam?
What is even worse is the inclination of the authorities to persecute the victims while ignoring the real culprits. About a dozen migrants told The Daily Star's correspondent that they had immigration clearance from the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET) for jobs in Vietnam. The Bangladesh Ambassador to Vietnam also said she wrote several times to the home and expatriates' welfare ministries on such human trafficking, but received no assistance. The BMET never communicated with the embassy for verification of any companies in Vietnam before issuing immigration clearances. Yet, so far, the only action taken against the BMET has been the formation of a probe committee at the expatriates' welfare ministry. The recruiting agents responsible for the plight of these workers have not only escaped prosecution; they have also been excused from bearing the cost of repatriation of and compensation to the affected migrant workers.
It is reprehensible that these migrants, after facing such injustices abroad, are being unjustly held and harassed once again at home. We urge the authorities to release these victims of human trafficking and to immediately conduct a judicial investigation into the recruiting agencies and BMET officials who allowed their trafficking to occur in the first place. If this situation is not handled judiciously, our unfair treatment of victims of human trafficking will tarnish the country's image far more than any acts committed by our workers abroad.