Slave trade must stop (The New Nation (Bangladesh))

Terming human trafficking a severe national problem, members of civil society, educationists, freedom fighters, former civil and military bureaucrats on Saturday vowed to eliminate all elements involved in human trafficking from the country.

They came up with the determination at a roundtable titled “Our duty is to resist human trafficking being imbued with the spirit of Liberation War.” The speakers also came down heavily on the government, accusing it of protecting the identified political leader, members of coast guards, police and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) involved with such heinous crime like human trafficking.

They demanded immediate arrest of the identified ruling party lawmaker in Cox’s Bazaar, members of coast guard, police and BGB who are protecting and patronizing the human trafficking syndicates. Association for Law Research and Human Rights (ALERT) organized the round table at the National Press Club with its President Advocate Mohammad Jahangir Alam Khan in the chair.

Justice Muhammed Momtaz Uddin Ahmed, Chairman, Bangladesh Press Council, SM Jahangir Alam, Chairman, National FF Foundation, Major General (Retd) Mohammad Ali Sikder, Advocate Nasir Uddin Khan, Professor Nilima Chowdhury, Zinnat Ali Khan, President, Bangladesh Swadhinata Parishad, Physician Syeda Badrun Nahar Chowdhury, an Independence award receiver freedom fighter took part in the discussion, among others.

When night falls, traffickers bundle their prey on fishing trawlers and leave for the two destinations (Thailand and Malaysia) from several points of the coast under the very nose of the members of law enforcing agencies, the speakers told the roundtable.They said the law enforcers, especially Coast Guard, BGB and police, know the trafficking routes along the edges of Bangladesh and Myanmar’s waters but they remain silent in exchange for bribe.

They also said traffickers’ agents spread across Bangladesh get between Tk 5,000 and 10,000 for each person supplied to the chain, and the godfathers in Cox’s Bazar pocket between Tk 15,000 and 30,000 through bKash, a mobile banking service.The area also has dozens of mobile banking outlets, through which much of the ransom money is transacted they said, adding shops there sell fancy mobile phones whose main customers are human traffickers.

They raised questions about why the government is not taking action against bKash. Each agent has several hundred SIM cards for receiving ransoms.”Apart from identified human traffickers, we want immediate arrest of a ruling party lawmaker from Cox’s Bazar and members of law enforcing agencies whose name have been mentioned in the intelligence agency report,” said Nasir Uddin Khan, President ALERT Supreme Court Bar Unit.

Mohammad Liakat Ali, a lawyer of Dhaka Judge Court, said the human civilization is at stake as the human traffickers are ruling the world.”Why we are sitting idle here and discussing instead of going for direct action against the such heinous crime committed by the demons,” Liakat Ali said.

Zinnat Ali Khan said alluring young people with jobs and sophisticated lifestyle in foreign countries the human traffickers’ agents across the country are engaged in collecting them. “But the jobseekers dreams turn into a nightmare. Held in crammed and filthy conditions in Thai jungles for months or even years, they are often beaten and starved for ransom.

It can’t be continued in a civilized world,” he said.Lion MW Faruk termed human trafficking a big illegal business in the world as the internationally organised human traffickers do not have need to invest more money.”When Nobel laureates of the world expressed their grave concern and raised voice against the crisis of humanity, meaning two Nobel laureates-one in our country and another in Myanmar — have remained silence. It seems to us something mysterious,” he alleged.

Faruk said all this exposes how a modern-day slave trade has taken a firm root in Bangladesh and also in this region. Mohammad Alauddin, a human trafficking victim, said they had been beaten up, abused and left with almost no food in cage for months together.Justice Muhammed Momtaz said three ministries — Home, Foreign and Law — would have to work together to combat the human trafficking.

Much of the ransom is transacted through mobile banking, and the traffickers and their brokers have underhand dealings with local agents of various mobile banking services, the speakers said. Under pressure from the traffickers to pay the ransom by the deadline, helpless families sell their last pieces of land, often their homesteads, or take loans from local lenders at high interest rates, they added.

According to the keynote paper, about 87,000 people from Bangladesh and Myanmar have been trafficked to Malaysia and Thailand by sea in the last three years till December 2014.Besides, 25,000 people have become the victims of human trafficking since January to March this year.