By Vatican News
Bangladesh police have arrested more than 50 people accused of extorting money from people on false promises of jobs overseas, in a major crackdown on human trafficking after 30 migrant workers were murdered in Libya.
According to the Thomson Reuters Foundation reported, the series of arrests began after the migrants, including 26 Bangladeshis, were abducted and killed by traffickers in the strife-torn north African nation, at the end of May.
The group of 42 migrants, including 38 Bangladeshis, was held captive in a trafficking warehouse in Mizdah, around 180 kilometres from the Libyan capital Tripoli, the Bangladesh Embassy in Libya said, quoting one of the survivors of the carnage.
The survivor said that they had paid between $8,000 and $10,000 to the traffickers to reach Europe through Libya. However, as the trafficking gang began torturing them to extort more money, the hostages attacked and killed one of the traffickers. In retaliation, the gang opened fire on them killing 30 and injuring 12.
The Libyan government has issued arrest warrants for suspects following the deaths.
The arrests in Bangladesh were mostly made in Dhaka, the capital, and included a ringleader who sent about 400 Bangladeshis to Libya illegally in the last decade, police said.
"(Arresting traffickers) is a part of the regular duty of Bangladesh Police but obviously this is the strongest operation against traffickers in recent times," Sohel Rana, spokesman of the Bangladesh Police said on Friday.
He said most of the accused were being charged under a 2012 law that criminalized trafficking in Bangladesh with penalties ranging from five years to life imprisonment.
Last week, Dhaka Tribune daily newspaper reported the arrest of as many as 52 suspected human traffickers responsible for sending the Bangladeshis who were killed in Libya. One of them who lived in Libya for 13 years is said to be the owner of 2 trafficking camps in the African country.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, more than 2 million illegal migrants from different Asian and African countries have entered Europe through the Mediterranean Sea since 2014.
Bangladesh depends heavily on remittances
Bangladesh is one of the world's largest exporters of labour and depends heavily on money sent home by its overseas workers. More than 10 million migrants sent $18.32 billion to Bangladesh in 2019, the third highest recipient of remittance in South Asia.
International remittances, which normally represent around 7% of Bangladesh’s GDP, are the nation's second-largest source of foreign earnings after its massive garments industry.
According to the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET), in 2019 alone, over 700,000 migrant workers left the country in search of employment abroad and over 73 percent of remittances were sent from the 7 Gulf Cooperation Council countries alone.
Exploitation by brokers
However, unlicensed brokers are known to charge workers thousands of dollars with promises of good jobs abroad that don't exist. Campaigners say that the country's dependency on unofficial brokers for recruitment opens the path to exploitation.
The United Nations' International Organization for Migration(IOM) estimates there are about 21,000 Bangladeshi migrants in Libya, accounting for about 3% of the migrant population.
The IOM said migrants from Bangladesh reported the highest costs of journey to travel to Libya in comparison to migrants from other countries, who pay on average $3,200 per person.
Low conviction rate
While the police said progress is being made, some human rights activists voiced concerned that many of those arrested this month may walk free due to the country's low conviction rate for trafficking crimes.
The rate of convictions in Bangladesh was 0.4% between 2013-2019, according to the U.S. Trafficking in Persons report.
Tariqul Islam, country director for the anti-trafficking charity Justice and Care, said there needed to be more coordination between the investigating authority and the prosecutor to build strong cases against criminals.
The Church with people on the move
The Holy See and Pope Francis have been vigorously advocating the rights, dignity and safety of migrants and refugees as the Church accompanies them in all stages of their journey. To this end, the Vatican has a special Migrants and Refugees Section, and the Catholic Church worldwide celebrates its own World Migrant and Refugee Day on the last Sunday of September.
Pope Francis on Sunday asked Catholics to join him in praying for a renewed and effective commitment to protect refugees and migrants. Recalling the United Nations World Refugee Day celebrated on the previous day, June 20, he appealed for respect and care for displaced persons, especially during the current Covid-19 pandemic. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)