Janeh was fifteen years old, studying in class 9 at a government school in Cox Bazar. He was a Quran hafiz and a very beautiful child, the apple of his parents’ eyes. One day, his friend convinced him to visit St. Martin Island for a picnic, where they climbed up a hill to check out the vista. There, his friend introduced him to his ‘brother-in-law’ and then disappeared. The bother-in-law tied Janeh up to a tree in a cave and left him there alone all night. The next day, the man took his to a speed boat where six other boys were captured.
“I was kidnapped by human traffickers.”- Christophe Archambault- AFP
The speed boat took them to a trawler where there were another 570 men. Many had been similarly kidnapped, others had been brainwashed with lies of a luxury ship that would take them to Malaysia for work. The men on the trawler who were their captors were of Mong (Arakanese) origin and did not speak Bangla, but carried daas (large carving knives) which they used to communicate.
IOM works with Governments to help people reintegrate after migration related trauma
Janeh lived a hellish life on the trawler for four months. They were beaten up if they did not obey instructions. He saw two boys beaten to death. They were fed a handful of rice twice a day, with half a glass of water. They were allowed up onto the deck, to a designated bathroom area, twice a day; that too was cancelled if there were coast guards or other ships in sight. Below deck where they lived, there was not enough space to stretch out their limbs and lie down. They spent the entire four months in squatting position, limbs screaming in pain, like the slaves in Alex Haily’s Roots.
“I consider myself lucky to be alive.”
Finally, they were rescued by border guards and returned to Bangladesh. Here, IOM – The UN Migration Agency’s project, building the Lives of Returning Migrants, funded by DIBP Australia, then supported him to rebuild his life.
After return, the project team worked with him to understand his conditions, area of interest for work, capacity, constraints and dreams.
He received individual assistance in two forms: household assistance and capital injection. He used this capital injection to purchase a shop. The household assistance was to support his family.
Since he had never run a business before, he lacked knowledge on finance and entrepreneurship. So, the project provided him with training on financial literacy, business development and entrepreneurship. He also received training on safe migration, household gardening and compost preparation. He was also introduced to local traders and businessmen to support him with forward and backward linkage for his business. He has formed a group with other returnees in his area of residence. Together they are now more organized, have better communication skill and better knowledge on how to run their own businesses. With a group of others, he has also set up a social enterprise called RED Sea Food in Cox’s Bazar. Now he thinks about his future and has a proper plan based on the yearlong counselling he received.