Bangladesh must significantly increase prosecutions and convictions for human trafficking offences to prevent the same.
Brent Christensen, political/economic counsellor of US embassy in Bangladesh, made the comment referring to a critical recommendation made by US State Department in its "Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2019".
The report has put Bangladesh on Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year in the wake of the government not meeting the minimum standards of trafficking elimination.
"We believe Bangladesh has a constructive action plan to prevent human trafficking. The focus now must be implementation," he added.
He was speaking at a national consultative workshop titled "Comprehensive Responses to Trafficking in Persons" at InterContinental Dhaka on Sunday.
International Organisation for Migration (IOM) – Bangladesh, the UN's migration agency, organised the event in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs with financial support from the US Department of State and Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL).
Speaking at the workshop, speakers observed that trafficking is a crime which should be brought under control with the comprehensive effort of government at all levels, development partners, law enforcement, civil society, private sector and other relevant actors.
Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said, "Trafficking disproportionately affects people who are already discriminated against and vulnerable to exploitation and exclusion. The main challenges revolve around coordination, capacity, resources and data."
"Trafficking is also a development issue. State must also do more to support the victims and survivors of trafficking," she said.
TIP and "Smuggling of Migrants" are global phenomena and they are also a growing concern for Bangladesh.
As per the Bangladesh Country Report 2017 by the government, a total of 770 trafficked persons were reported in the first investigation reports, 778 cases were lodged with police and 546 trafficked persons were rescued, of whom 152 were women and 91 children.
According to the TIP report, many Bangladeshis who migrate every year through irregular channels risk exploitation and abuse at the hands of smugglers and traffickers.
Vulnerable people become targets of human traffickers for different reasons, including sexual exploitation, forced labour, transactional marriages, child labour exploitation, trafficking in street children and trafficking for the purpose of organ trade.
In some cases, migrant workers become victims of trafficking due to abuse and exploitation and to unethical recruitment practices by private recruiters and employers.
Victims are smuggled to further away destinations such as India, Pakistan and Middle Eastern countries, resulting in the most corrosive forms of human rights violations.
Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque said, "The mode of trafficking is changing rapidly. If you want to combat trafficking with old model, you will fail. There is a huge gap between actions and trafficking business."
Trafficking should be brought under the umbrella of migration, he said, adding: "You can't talk about migration, unless you talk about trafficking. We want to reduce vulnerabilities and we have taken lots of initiatives."
Government has recently decided to ratify Palermo protocol to prevent and protect trafficking in person, he told the audience.
Girogi Gigauri, chief of mission of IOM Bangladesh, said lack of job opportunities, poor awareness on safe migration, high costs of migration are some of the "pull factors" to irregular migration.
He said they are prioritising the rights and wellbeing of migrants and their communities of destination, origin, and transit.
"And, we are always with the government to end human trafficking," he added.
Bangladesh government has taken several initiatives to curb trafficking.
It demonstrated significant efforts by finalising and adopting implementing rules for the 2012 Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act in January 2017, and by drafting an implementation roadmap for the 2018-2022 National Action Plan.
In this regard, Additional Secretary to the home ministry Md Abu Bakar Siddique said the government has already taken many institutional initiatives at national and local levels to prevent trafficking.
But it has the shortage of manpower, he said, adding that different stakeholders have to work together to combat human trafficking.
Eric Opanga, resident legal adviser, US Department of Justice; AKM Masud Ali, executive director, INCIDIN; Jonathan Martens, senior migrant protection specialist, IOM also spoke at the workshop.