Experts yesterday said a higher rate of conviction in human trafficking cases could be an effective way to curb the crime in the country.
Speaking at a webinar, they said poverty is one of the root causes of irregular migration and it often leads people to fall victim to human traffickers. They called for government steps to address the problem adequately.
The experts said seven tribunals, which were set up in the country to dispose of human trafficking cases, have to be "properly functional" to reduce the number of pending cases significantly. They also stressed the need for ensuring the protection of the victims and witnesses.
Brac and Winrock International's "Ashshash" project jointly organised the webinar on "Combating Human Trafficking: Scope and Challenges of Promoting Safe Migration and Protecting Trafficking Survivors" ahead of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons today.
Addressing the event, Head of Brac Migration Programme Shariful Hasan said exploitation of labourers and sexual exploitation of women have increased alarmingly in recent years.
He said a low conviction rate in human trafficking cases and denial of justice were not the problems only for Bangladesh, but for the whole world.
Shariful said compared to an increased number of human trafficking cases filed across the world in the last two years, the conviction rate was low and the number of victims rose day by day.
However, a positive trend was that many countries brought amendments to their existing laws related to human trafficking, he added.
He said poverty is one of the main reasons for human trafficking in Bangladesh.
Referring to statistics, Shariful said Bangladesh was one of the top 10 countries whose nationals attempted to enter Europe illegally through different sea and land routes between January and June this year.
Tariqul Islam, country director of NGO-based initiative Justice and Care, said effective coordination between special tribunal public prosecutors and investigation officers was required to ensure punishment of perpetrators through convictions in human trafficking cases.Additional Secretary of Home Ministry Abu Bakar Siddique said issues of irregular migration comes to the fore whenever human trafficking is discussed in Bangladesh, but this is not the case in other countries.
He said human trafficking could have been curbed significantly in Bangladesh if trafficking of labour migrants could be stopped.
Abu Bakar said creating enough employment opportunities and reducing poverty in the country can significantly help reduce trafficking of labour migrants.
INCIDIN Bangladesh Executive Director AKM Masud Ali said different surveys found that "dalals" (middlemen or brokers) were responsible for the high cost of labour migration from Bangladesh.
Masud said the government was making efforts to cut migration cost, but there is no mention of the word "dalal" in the country's related law.
Bringing them under the purview of law and under an accountability mechanism is crucial, he observed.
Addressing the programme as chief guest, Chairman of National Human Rights Commission Nasima Begum said providing proper skills training to migrant workers, especially the female ones, is essential to ensure their safety.
If workers go for overseas jobs after having proper training, it will significantly help reduce their exploitation and sexual harassment, she said.
Nasima said skilled workers earn more and remain cautious about their rights.
Presiding over the programme, NGO Foundation Chairman Hedayetullah Al Mamoon stressed the need for addressing poverty to curb human trafficking as it is the root cause of the crime.
Joint Secretary Muzaffar Ahmed of the expatriates' welfare ministry said many Bangladeshis who went abroad for jobs on tourist or visit visas fell victim to human traffickers.