Combating human trafficking: all stakeholders must join hands together
The ongoing pandemic coupled with restrictions to mobility and movements mainly imposed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 have had diverse impacts on people’s vulnerability to human trafficking, including migrants from and to Bangladesh, which makes the World Day against Trafficking in Persons 2021 particularly important.
This year’s theme of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, "Victims’ Voices Lead the Way" puts victims of human trafficking at the center of the campaign and highlights the importance of listening to and learning from survivors of human trafficking.
To mark the day, representatives from the Government of Bangladesh (GoB), members of the Bangladesh United Nations Network on Migration (BDUNNM), partners from civil society and the private sector met on Wednesday in a virtual webinar. The webinar shared the key messages from survivors of human trafficking and highlighted the risks faced by an estimated 700,000 Bangladeshis who choose to migrate abroad every year. Vulnerable migrants are often the target of traffickers and find themselves in situations that can result in debt bondage, forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced marriages and other forms of modern slavery. It is well documented that Bangladesh is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and child victims of human trafficking.
The GoB has taken active steps to counter human trafficking by including formulating policies and strengthening task forces. These include the GO-NGO National Coordination Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, Committee to Monitor the National Plan of Action for Combatting Human Trafficking 2018-2022, the Rescue, Recovery, Repatriation, and Integration (RRRI) Task Force, the Vigilance Task Force, and the Counter Trafficking Committees at district, sub-district, and union levels.
Participants at the webinar called on the GoB, global partners, the private sector, and civil society actors to focus their efforts on advancing a robust, rights-based approach aimed at preventing exploitation of individuals by trafficking networks and shrinking the space in which they operate.
Masud Bin Momen, Foreign Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh, said, "Trafficking in persons is a serious human rights violation. The GoB has zero tolerance policy on this and is actively taking steps to fight this horrific crime. The fight against trafficking and smuggling of migrants requires multi-stakeholder engagement."
According to Mia Seppo, UN Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, "The COVID-19 is presenting new challenges to the protection of migrants, and it is widely known that the pandemic impacts men, women, and children, including adolescents, differently. To combat the scourge of trafficking in persons, all stakeholders must join hands and work together."
Loss of employment, reductions in income, limited means of securing livelihoods and nationwide school closures have created conditions that have amplified the risks of trafficking in persons. In addition to the root causes of human trafficking reportedly intensifying, it is feared that Bangladesh has experienced an increase in forms of abuse and exploitation. Recently observed trends and media headlines suggest that traffickers are using online platforms such as TikTok and WhatsApp etc. to lure potential victims of human trafficking.
Giorgi Gigauri, Coordinator of BDUNNM and IOM Chief of Mission in Bangladesh, said, "Trafficking is a crime which puts migrant workers at risk in terms of physical and mental abuse, harassment, forced labour, forced and illegal marriages, illegal trade, and losing lives. The Government at all levels, 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."
Siobhan Mullally, UN Special Rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, in her address noted, “The impact of COVID 19 increases risks of trafficking in persons. We need urgently to address the increasing risks of child trafficking, to combat online exploitation, exploitation of migrant workers and the particular risks of sexual exploitation. The Global Compact on Migration commits to eradicating trafficking in persons. This commitment must translate into meaningful change on the ground. Effective action is essential to ensure that multinational corporations meet their obligations of due diligence in supply chains.”
The webinar was organized by the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group (CTIPTWG) under the Bangladesh United Nations Network on Migration (BDUNNM) to commemorate World Day Against Trafficking in Persons 2021. The “Global Action against Trafficking in Persons and the Smuggling of Migrants - Bangladesh (GLO.ACT-Bangladesh)” project, which is funded by the European Union and jointly implemented by UNODC and IOM, supported to organize the event.
For further communication, please contact Md. Sariful Islam, National Communications Officer at IOM Bangladesh, Email: [email protected], Tel: +880 1915631608
Note to the Editor: In 2019, the Bangladesh United Nations Network on Migration (BDUNNM) was established and, shortly afterwards, a Counter-Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group was set up to provide advice and support on counter-trafficking measures. The Working Group is composed of civil society actors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and key UN agencies, working in a whole-of-society approach to combat human trafficking in Bangladesh, vis-à-vis the United Nations Global Plan of Action to Combat Trafficking in Persons and the Global Compact on Migration. The group meets monthly to identify priority areas in counter-trafficking programs, provide technical support and ensure operational cooperation and coordination on key trafficking issues in Bangladesh.
The event was produced live on IOM Bangladesh Facebook page. You can watch the whole event from the link below.