Nearly 400 Bangladeshi migrants are currently in jails on the cross-border areas of the United States of America and Mexico after they were detained by the law enforcement agencies for attempting to enter the US illegally.
They were the victims of transnational trafficking who crossed the Atlantic convinced by the traffickers that they would finally be able to enter the US, said senior foreign ministry officials in Dhaka.
A senior official at Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said that those Bangladeshi migrants had paid over Tk10 lakh each to the traffickers to become the victims of trafficking.
At least 391 Bangladeshi migrants were detained in the borders of Mexico as they were trying to cross over to the US territory illegally, the official said preferring anonymity.
When asked, a senior diplomat at Bangladesh Embassy in Washington DC told New Age on Friday that it was a regular phenomenon — there were Bangladeshi migrants who tried to cross border illegally and sought asylums. ‘We do not encourage such illegal entry of the migrants without having obtained valid documents,’ the official added.
Traffickers also send Bangladeshis to other South American countries with tourist visas before sending them to the US, officials said. Bangladesh embassy in Brasilia in Brazil had witnessed a rise in such cases. Some Bangladeshi workers, who fell victim to human trafficking, often cross the Atlantic to enter into Brazil.
Hashem (not his real name), a 25-year-old young Bangladeshi entrepreneur, used to run a small business in the capital city Dhaka. One night in 2016, he was instructed by traffickers he entrusted with his migration to arrive in Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to fly off to Ecuador, a South American country. The trafficker who was his acquaintance took Tk 10 lakh, equivalent to over US$ 12,000, promised to send him to the United States. He arrived in Ecuador without any hassle. He had to spend three days in a hotel and 30 days with a family as a paying guest waiting for a favourable day. Since his next destination was Columbia, it took about two days on road by a taxi to reach there. After one-month stay in Columbia, he left for Panama by road. When he was entering Panama, immigration police arrested him and put him in jail for 11 months and 15 days. After serving his tenure in Panama jail, he was pushed back to Ecuador as he had an Ecuador visa. While Hashem was stuck in Ecuador, his family was pressed for more money by the traffickers. However, his family could neither pay any money to the traffickers, nor to him. At this critical juncture, Hashem had no other option but to join the ‘trafficking network’ for survival. He became involved with a ‘traffic syndicate’ and collected handsome amounts from some of his acquaintances and relatives in Bangladesh giving false promises of overseas employment in Ecuador. Afterwards, Hashem once again made an attempt at entering the US. He spent one day in Panama, two days in Costa Rica, two days in Nicaragua and five days in Guatemala before reaching the US-Mexico border using local transports. From Guatemala, traffickers took him to Mexico and kept him detained for about 15 days. One morning, they left him at the border area, where he saw some people crossing a river. He followed suit without thinking of the consequences.
After one hour, Hashem succeeded in making his entry into his dream destination — America. The very next day, the US immigration police arrested him and he was slapped with a two and a half months jail sentence for illegal entry. At the end of his term in jail, one of his relatives signed $20,000 guarantee paper and bailed him out. Migrant rights activist and Awaj Foundation director for migration Anisur Rahman Khan told New Age that there were many migrants who died on the perilous routes to the US. The human smugglers often kept these migrants hostage to realise ransom money.
He called to the authorities concerned to take steps to stop trafficking and all other forms of unsafe migration. ‘We demand the government to ensure safe migration and take immediate action to stop trafficking.’ US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons, in its Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2018, kept Bangladesh in the ‘Tier 2 Watch List,’ which is an indicator for vulnerability in combating trafficking. According to statistics of the Police Headquarters’ Human Trafficking Cell in Bangladesh at least 4,414 trafficking cases were filed under the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act since 2012. Over 8000 people including men, women and children became victims of trafficking from January 2013 to November 2018.
At least 6,758 traffickers were arrested but only 29 of them were convicted, according to the Police Headquarters’ Human Trafficking Cell.
SOURCE: New Age Bangladesh