A series of news on human trafficking across the sea route of Cox's Bazar have been getting highlighted in national and international media in recent days. More significantly, the discovery of mass graves of the victims of trafficking in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia has pushed the human conscience to think about the practice of 'modern-slavery' through trafficking. Therefore, the following measures are needed to take immediately to stop this heinous crime across the sea route of Cox's Bazar.
The government enacted the Human Trafficking (Deterrence and Suppression) Act in 2012 and Overseas Employment and Migration Act in 2013 complying with the international standards. These laws incorporated a number of provisions to protect and implement the rights of the victims of human trafficking by ensuring safe migration. However, the rules under these laws have not been made yet. Section 42 of the Human Trafficking Act, 2012 requires establishing a “Human Trafficking Prevention Fund” to support the victims of trafficking but this fund has not also been established. This fund is needed to be established immediately so that the local administration can effectively help, repatriate and rescue the victims of human trafficking.
According to the report of 'Monitoring Cell for Combating Trafficking in Person' from 15th June 2004 to 30th April 2015, 2501 cases of human trafficking have been instituted in the court of law and only 688 cases have been disposed. Therefore, the trial of human trafficking should be accompanied with speedier means. As per section 21(1) of the Act of 2012, the government is obliged to set up an Anti-human Trafficking Offence Tribunal for the purpose of the speedy trial of offences. However, the tribunal has not been established yet.
The maritime boundary of Cox's Bazar is the easiest route for trafficking human beings to abroad. This sea route needs to be monitored and controlled by the law enforcing agencies especially by BGB and local administration. We have Counter Trafficking Committees (CTC) in district, upazila and unions level which are required to be more functional. In cases of trafficking through the maritime boundary there are few concerning issues, for example, the organized gang of human trafficking use the ID of fisherman to cross the sea area of Bangladesh through Cox's Bazar route; they use the mobile network and maintain the monetary transaction by mobile banking of Bangladesh from abroad.
Considering this, the ID of fisherman must be monitored and checked properly. Likewise, some “observatory points” need to be marked identifying the hotspot of human trafficking in the Cox's Bazar area with a view to monitoring the process of human trafficking properly.
Sometimes the BGB can see the process of trafficking outside the maritime boundary or within the boundary of Myanmar but they cannot take any action crossing boundary of Bangladesh. In this regard, the bilateral tie between Myanmar and Bangladesh deserves to be strengthened. The concerned embassy of Bangladesh should set up a 'Help Desk' for assisting the victims of trafficking. Assisting the helpless migrant workers is the obligation of embassy and right of the workers under section 29 of the Overseas Employment and Migrant Act, 2013. It is worth-mentioning here that Bangladesh made two National Plan of action for combating Human Trafficking but no measure is mentioned for combating human trafficking by sea route. It needs to be included in next National Plan of Action. The Ministry of Expatriates' Welfare and Overseas Employment should scrutinise and monitor the fake advertisements that offer attractive jobs in abroad.
It is indeed necessary to make people aware about the spirit of anti-trafficking. It may be by playing Potho Natok (street drama), publishing Public Service Announcement (PSA), telecasting Natika in each radio and television channels, conducting essay competition in schools and colleges, encouraging the religious leaders to make people conscious. The national and international NGOs can play an important role. Media can be a powerful institution in this regard. Finally, cumulative efforts from different stakeholders can facilitate to combat this heinous crime.
The writer is working at Relief International.