Safe migration an urgent need
The government and other stakeholders, including civil society groups, need to focus their efforts on advancing rights-based approaches to prevent exploitation of individuals by trafficking networks, participants said at a webinar yesterday.
They also called for efforts to shrink the space in which trafficking networks operate.
The Counter-Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group under the Bangladesh United Nations Network on Migration organised the webinar, commemorating World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2021.
The "Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants- Bangladesh" project -- funded by the European Union and implemented by UN Office on Drugs and Crime and International Organisation for Migration (IOM) -- supported in organising the event.
Addressing the webinar, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen said the government's response to the challenge is being guided by a "well laid-out robust policy framework" and a range of targeted actions.
"The changing geopolitical and development paradigm, coupled with the recent Covid-19 pandemic, is constraining our efforts to promote orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration," he said.
The foreign secretary said in recent times, a few thousand Bangladeshi nationals have been victims of either trafficking in persons or migrant smuggling rings in several countries, including Libya, Tunisia, Malta and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The government has repatriated many such victims and is determined to continue the effort within the shortest possible time, he added.
In her address, Siobhan Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, noted that the impact of Covid-19 increases risks of trafficking in persons.
"We urgently need to address the increasing risks of child trafficking, combat online exploitation, exploitation of migrant workers, and the particular risks of sexual exploitation," she said.
The Global Compact on Migration commits to eradicating trafficking in persons, she said, adding that this commitment must translate into meaningful change on the ground.
Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, said Covid-19 is presenting new challenges to the protection of migrants, also outlining the intersectionaility of the issue. "It is widely known that the pandemic impacts men, women, and children, including adolescents, differently," Seppo said.
To combat the scourge of trafficking in persons, all stakeholders must join hands and work together, she said.
IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Giorgi Gigauri said trafficking is a crime which puts migrant workers at risk of physical and mental abuse, harassment, forced labour, forced and illegal marriages, illegal trade, and losing lives.
All levels of the government, development partners, law enforcement entities, civil society, the private sector, and all other relevant actors must make a concerted effort to take action to stamp it out, he said.
AKM Masud Ali, executive director of INCIDIN Bangladesh, called for an urgent need to develop Covid-19 responsive arrangements for the protection of migrants.
The Covid-19 induced closure of formal channels mobility and transportation calls for special attention on potential migrants, especially returnees, so that they have adequate information and institutional access to counter recruitment approaches from traffickers, he said.
Former foreign secretary M Shahidul Haque, among others, also spoke at the webinar.