Naima Akhter, who worked at a garment factory in Dhaka's Ashulia, was trafficked to Andhra Pradesh in India by a gang with a promise for a well-paying job.
Even four years after the incident, the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI), which is tasked with probing the case, could not rescue the woman, a resident of Faridpur, and bring her back to the country.
Not only Naima Akhter, but 12,324 men, women, and children have also been trafficked to different countries in the last 17 years.
Of them, 9,710 were rescued but 2,614 women and children have yet to be traced.
In this context, PBI Inspector Mehedi Hasan, who is investigating several human trafficking cases, told The Business Standard that multiple gangs are trafficking men, women, and children to different countries by tempting them with good jobs. The members of such gangs are making large sums of money through trafficking.
Asked why the trafficked men, women, and children could not be rescued, he said, "Apart from stopping human trafficking, we are also working to rescue trafficked women and children. Many have been rescued and brought back to the country. But even after identifying the condition of many victims, it is not possible to rescue them and bring them back to the country due to a lack of cooperation from the countries concerned."
According to Police Headquarters, 6,735 human trafficking-related cases have been filed in the last 17 years and 27,363 people have been charged in these cases.
Of the accused, 12,280 have been arrested by various law enforcement agencies.
Police Headquarters further said only 233 cases have been investigated in the last 17 years and 409 people have been punished in these cases. Besides, 810 cases have been settled. At the end of the investigation, 1716 people were acquitted from the cases.
Courts have sentenced eight people to death in six of the cases. So far 299 people have been awarded life imprisonment and 102 others have been punished and fined in different terms.
Although the police, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), various human rights organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have been working to prevent human trafficking, the situation of trafficking in women and children has not changed much. Women and children are being trafficked almost every day and most of the trafficked women are being brutally tortured abroad.
Criminal Investigation Department (CID) officials involved in the investigation of human trafficking cases said women are being trafficked abroad, starting with the temptation of good jobs and Tick-Talk videos in recent times.
Women are mostly being trafficked to different countries, such as India, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and China.
Police officials say many people are being trafficked while trying to go abroad for jobs as there are not enough employment opportunities in the country. In addition, multiple gangs are trafficking women and children to different countries by trapping them in various ways.
Trafficking rings active everywhere from village to town
CID Additional Superintendent of Police AKM Akhtaruzzaman told TBS that there is a vast network of human trafficking rings from village to town levels. By discovering new routes, the members of such gangs are making large sums of money by trafficking men and women to different countries.
Several officials involved in the investigation of human trafficking cases said unemployed village youths and simple women are the target of trafficking gang members. Later, traffickers take Tk3 lakh to Tk8 lakh step by step saying that they would be sent to different countries, including in the Middle East with high-paying jobs.
Officials also said most of the trafficking victims are in dire straits abroad. Without getting any jobs, a large number of them were arrested by the police of these countries and stuck in jails.
Again, many went abroad but were held hostage by these cliques and were subjected to horrific torture. The gangs again snatched large sums of money from family members back in the country by making videos of torture abroad.
The members of the human trafficking rings are active not only in the villages but also in the cities. PBI Inspector Mehedi Hasan said, "During the investigation of a human trafficking case in Keraniganj, I came upon information about the ringleader of a gang named Firoz. He is sitting in Cambodia and extorting large sums of money by sending members of many rich families in Dhaka to different countries in Europe."
"In the investigation of the case, I found that this gang had swindled Tk70 lakh by promising to send five members of a family to Canada. Some members of the gang, including Rahul and Sudip, are staying in India and carrying out their activities," he added.
On human trafficking
Deputy Inspector General Banaj Kumar Majumder, who heads PBI, told TBS in order to stop human trafficking, it is important to investigate the assets of members of trafficking rings.
"They have to be prosecuted by bringing money laundering charges against them," he said. "Human trafficking will be greatly reduced if illegally acquired wealth is not allowed to be enjoyed by them."
Taufiquzzaman, an information investigation officer of Jashore Wright's, which works on human trafficking, told TBS that police only have information about the cases that have been registered at different police stations.
There are many cases of human trafficking in courts outside police stations. In addition, three NGOs work on human trafficking. They also receive a lot of complaints. So, the actual number will be much higher.
He said after confirming the whereabouts of the trafficked women and children, the home ministry is informed about rescuing them and bringing them back to the country. The home ministry enquires into the matter and gives its clearance. The matter is later brought to the notice of the authorities concerned through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
He said all preparations were completed to bring back about 200 victims of trafficking, but it could not be done due to coronavirus.