Md. Roman was a young mason, only 17 years old, working to earn an honest living to help support his siblings. One evening, after a long day of hard work, he and a friend were having a snack in a small shop in Teknaf. There a stranger asked him to help him with his tube well. They agreed to visit him the next morning to help him out. The stranger asked if they would at least come with him to check out the site and give him an estimate. Tired, but wanting to help, they agreed. The stranger took them to his home and asked them to wait in a room for him. Then he locked them in.


Before I was kidnapped I did not know such things could happen to a boy like me. Photo:


The next day, the stranger returned with a daa (carving knife) and took them to a small boat. From there they were taken to the same ship that Janeh Alam spoke about in the previous case study.


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.


Roman 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.


IOM works with Governments to help people reintegrate after migration related trauma


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 cow. The household assistance was to support his family. Since he had never ran 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, cattle raring and primary disease control of cattle, household gardening and compost preparation.


“I now own a food stall and I am living a new life.”


He was also introduced to local traders and businessmen to support him with forward and backward linkage for his livestock business. He has formed a group with other returnees in his area of residence. Together they are now more organized, have better communication skills 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.