“We were guarded by an armed convoy carrying AK-47s. It was nothing short of a Hollywood movie!” Ershad Mia said as he shared his experience with IOM. The sigh of disbelief was visible on his face even after 3 years.
Ershad Mia paid BDT 800,000 to an agent named Mosharrof, a dalal (agent/middlemen) who was referred by one of his friends for Schengen visa to Greece. He described Mosharraf as an avid traveler. Upon insistence of the agent, he prepaid BDT 300,000 at the beginning of the preparation process. He was assured that the procedures were legal given all travels will be by air. Ershad was certain that there should not be any problem at all. But the journey ahead of him was not what he was promised.
He and three other friends first flew over to Dubai from Dhaka. After a 6 hour transit they went to Bahrain. From there, they again flew to Istanbul in Turkey. Once they arrived in Turkey, they were waiting for the next direction from the agent who could lead them to get an e-visa of Turkey.
They were supposed to meet with an officer from Greek Embassy in Turkey where they could get visa assistance. But the agent kept them waiting at the airport for almost 40 hours without any clear explanation. Nearly 7 hours later, the agent sent someone with their tickets and visas to Libya, a shift in plan they didn’t anticipate. Uncertain and confused what to do next, they eventually took the tickets and decided to proceed.
Upon arrival in Libya, they boarded a bus which was guarded by convoy of armed vehicles. After 5-6 mins drive the bus stopped where all passengers were told to disembark apart from the Bangladeshis. Ershad was totally dumbfound, clueless and equally frightened. Soon he found out that people on the bus were abducted.
“One of the foreign speaking man came and said, go there and standing one by one in the row!” said Ershad, “I kept walking and in a while, they started shooting at us!”
Ershad ducked down for safety. After a while, he found himself bleeding. He was hit by a bullet in his arm. He recalled that they traffickers they were having a gun fight within themselves. Next what he recalls is waking up in the hospital. He was told that he had been unconscious for 3 days. With the help of an Iraqi intern doctor, he managed to touch base with the Embassy of Bangladesh.
The Embassy forwarded his case to IOM. With IOM’s support, he received treatment at that hospital for another 3 months and finally made his way back to Bangladesh through the UN Migration Agency’s Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Programme. Upon his return he went through another surgery in Dhaka with IOM’s support.
Ershad highlights his experience as the worst moment of his life. What could have been a journey of real possibilities and lucrative economic prospects only ended in horror due to unethical practices by the middlemen. Cases like Ershad’s are strong reminders to the nation to adopt a well governed migration management system that ensures migrants safety and dignity.