In a first, Bangladesh seeks Interpol's help to arrest trafficking kingpins

by Naimul Karim | @naimonthefield | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Tuesday, 10 November 2020 17:28 GMT

Migrant people are seen on board of an overcrowded ferry at the Sadarghat Ferry Port while leaving Dhaka to go home to celebrate Eid al-Adha, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Dhaka, Bangladesh, July 30, 2020. REUTERS/Mohammad Ponir Hossain

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Traffickers sought by international police agency over kidnap and death of migrants

By Naimul Karim

DHAKA, Nov 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Bangladesh has shared details of suspected human traffickers with Interpol for the first time, a police official said on Tuesday, as it seeks to stop the kidnap and killing of migrants.

Minto Mia became the first Bangladeshi trafficker to feature on the international police agency's Red Notice list of wanted fugitives this week, described as deceiving jobseekers and "wrongfully confining and killing" people over ransom demands.

He is the first of six traffickers that Bangladesh has asked Interpol to add to its list of some 7,000 people globally that member states' law enforcement agencies want to locate and arrest, said Syeda Zannat Ara, Special Superintendent of Police.

"These are traffickers who trick people from Bangladesh by taking money from them with promises of jobs abroad. They then keep them hostage in Libya and torture them for more money," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

"Putting their details on the Interpol will restrict their movement because they will be wanted no matter which country they go to."

More than 70 Bangladeshis are on Interpol's Red Notice list, which seeks the provisional arrest of fugitives, for prosecution or to serve a sentence, on charges that include murder, use of counterfeit money and distribution of pornography.

Bangladesh is vulnerable to trafficking as it is one of the world's largest exporters of manpower, with about 700,000 workers going overseas to jobs every year. It relies heavily on the remittances they send home.

The South Asian nation's migrants pay some of the highest recruitment fees in the world because the system depends mainly on unlicensed brokers in rural areas, which campaigners say leads to exploitation and trafficking.

Rohingya refugees line up at registration center in Kutupalong refugees camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, October 20, 2017. REUTERS/ Zohra Bensemra

KINGPINS

Bangladesh has stepped up its anti-trafficking efforts by setting up tribunals to handle a backlog of thousands of cases but conviction rates remain low, the U.S. government's annual trafficking in persons report said this year.

In what local police described as the "strongest operation" against traffickers in recent times, at least 50 people were arrested in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, in June for extorting money from people on false promises of jobs overseas.

The arrests were made after 24 Bangladeshi migrants were abducted and killed in Libya the previous month, and police said they included a ringleader who had sent about 400 Bangladeshis to Libya illegally over a decade.

Recognising the need for stronger international cooperation, Bangladesh police decided to issue the Red Notices to Interpol, Ara said, adding they would add the profiles of "trafficking kingpins" from other countries soon.

"I think reaching out to the Interpol is a praiseworthy initiative," said Ashraful Islam, a labour counsellor at the Bangladesh embassy in Libya.

"Hopefully this will help arrest the main culprits and prevent Bangladeshis from being trafficked here ... we will have to wait and see how effective this move will be," he added.

Interpol could not be reached immediately for a comment.

The United Nations' migration agency IOM estimates there are at least 20,000 Bangladeshi migrants in Libya - considered a gateway to Europe - accounting for about 3% of the migrant population.

Hasan, who returned to Bangladesh from Libya in 2018 after being held by traffickers for three months, lauded the police's decision to use Interpol to nab traffickers.

"If the police wants, I will help them catch the traffickers because I know the pain ... it has been two years and I am yet to recover the money I lost," said the 42-year-old, who declined to give his first name.

Related stories:

U.S. finds Bangladesh improving anti-trafficking efforts in annual report

Bangladesh arrests dozens after migrant workers murdered in Libya

Traffickers demand ransoms for Rohingyas held at sea in SE Asia

(Reporting by Naimul Karim @Naimonthefield; Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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