Challenging a general perception of cause of exodus from the country, Bangladesh today insisted that poverty is not necessarily the main driver pushing "some of our people into the hands of traffickers", suggesting roles of "external factors and forces".
Citing initial estimates, a Bangladesh delegation led by the Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque told a Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean' in Bangkok that there are about 30 percent of Bangladeshis among the victims recently rescued in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
"We shall arrange to conclude the nationality verification of these people within the shortest possible time, and shall repatriate them to Bangladesh preferably within a month or so," he said.
While different international agencies working in the fields of trafficking, migration and cross-border crime identified many Bangladeshis as economic migrants, the Bangladesh delegation differed on this.
"We have sustained an average GDP growth rate of 6.2 percent over the last six years. We have reduced poverty by nearly 2 percent each year, and lifted 50 million people out of poverty during this time," Haque said.
Within a limited resource base, Bangladesh has made impressive gains in human development and attained almost all of the MDGs ahead of time, while remaining on track with the others, he added.
"In such a context, there must be some other factors or forces at play beyond our immediate control that create vulnerability or false incentives for our people to risk their own lives at sea."
“To find out these factors, we may have to look for external forces", said the Bangladesh foreign secretary, who led a five-member delegation to the Bangkok meeting that was attended by 17 countries and three international agencies.
Saying that Bangladesh is deeply concerned over the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in the Indian Ocean, the delegation said the government of Bangladesh considers this to be "a direct challenge to our ‘zero tolerance’ approach to human trafficking".
To prevent further victimisation or deception of our people by the traffickers, Bangladesh is maintaining heightened surveillance, through its law enforcement agencies and local governments, he said.
It appears that the Bangladesh victims were allured or enticed by the traffickers with the false prospect of high-paid, secure jobs abroad, often without asking for any advance payment.
Some were reported to have been tricked and forced on to the boats by the traffickers, Bangladesh foreign secretary said.
"The current cases are, therefore, not irregular migration by sea. These are manifestations of a human trafficking trade at its worst. And certainly this is a recent trend, not seen in the past in Bangladesh."