- 27 Bangladeshis trafficked to Vietnam want to return home
- 6 recruiting agencies were involved
- Each of the recruits paid Tk4-4.5 lakh to agents
- Salary stopped after just one month
- Lost their jobs in April due to Covid-19 pandemic
Anwar Hossain, a 39-year-old man from Companiganj in Noakhali, left Bangladesh for Vietnam on January 15 this year.
He reached his destination the next day with some other Bangladeshi nationals by using India as a transit point. Anwar's family paid around Tk4.5 lakh to Nurul Islam, a local middleman who also introduced himself as the managing partner of Supreme Care Overseas.
Nurul assured Anwar that he would get a job in a furniture factory in Vietnam with a monthly salary of around Tk30,000. But as soon as Anwar set foot in that factory along with other Bangladeshi recruits, he became the victim of a well-planned exploitation racket.
Mostafa and Jabbar – two agents representing Bangladeshi recruiting agencies in Vietnam – had made a deal with the factory to pick up workers' salary and redistribute the money as they saw fit.
In the first month, Anwar and other Bangladeshi recruits worked for around 12 hours a day, but they did not get a full salary. In the next three months, they did not get any money at all for their work.
They became unemployed in April due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Ruhul Amin Sobuj – elder brother of Anwar Hossain – told The Business Standard over the phone, "Mostafa and Jabbar took the money from the Vietnamese employer, but did not pay my brother and other employees.
"When the workers asked for their salary, they were beaten up by the middlemen and their associates. The local agent had told us that they would send my brother to Vietnam with a work permit visa. But later, we found out that it was a visit visa and Anwar's passport was taken away by the middlemen."
Sobuj mentioned that local agent Nurul Islam coordinated the process with Mash Career Services, a recruiting agency. The Business Standard made repeated attempts to contact Nurul Islam on the phone for his comment, but he did not respond till the filing of this report.
Unemployed and without any other recourse, Anwar – along with other recruits – left their residence located 1,200 kilometres away from the capital city Hanoi with the help of Bangladesh Embassy and local police.
They are now staying at a hotel provided by the Vietnamese government, seeking to return home with state-cost.
Anwar is one of the 27 Bangladeshis who has recently got trafficked to Vietnam.
Involvement of 6 recruiting agencies
The Brac Migration Programme has found the involvement of six recruiting agencies in the Vietnam case during an internal investigation.
These agencies are Shandhani Overseas, Mam and Mam Overseas, Moon Air International, Estema International, Afeef International and A Jharna Trade International.
Besides, the programme also found involvement of two other agencies - JK Overseas and Mash Career Services – with the case.
It also contacted the 27 trafficked victims who sought the government's help in returning home.
Shariful Hasan, head of the Brac Migration Programme, said, "The trafficked Bangladeshis informed us that they went to Vietnam through six recruiting agencies that took Tk4-4.5 lakh from each of them.
"Besides, some other agencies are also involved. Now, the trafficked people want to get their money back from those agencies."
The 27 trafficked Bangladeshis are Shahadat, Kashem, Khaleque and Dolu from Tangail, Robiul from Kishoreganj, Ismail, Belal, Sohel and Karim from Brahmanbaria, Anwar, Titu, Mahabub and Saroar from Noakhali, Ripon and Monir from Habiganj, Rashed from Kushtia, Shital Chandra from Chandpur, Hasan Molla from Faridpur, Alamgir from Feni, Biplob and Rikchan Mandal from Magua, Manik, Rakibul, Mominur from Nilfamari, Mizan and Saiful from Narayanganj, and Shapan from Narsingdi.
According to Brac sources, around 12 Bangladeshis – who were also trafficked – are currently residing at a Guntao area camp in Vietnam.
Chasing the dream of reaching Europe
Although Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said the Bangladesh government has a zero tolerance policy against human trafficking, such incidents are quite frequent.
Traffickers across the globe are using Libya, North Macedonia and Greece as common way stations for reaching the most prosperous European destinations.
Human traffickers and their local middlemen are taking advantage of desperate people by exploiting their dreams of reaching Europe through these routes.
During a routine check on a regional road on Monday, North Macedonian authorities found 144 Bangladeshis in a truck filled with 211 migrants near the country's southern border with Greece.
In the last month, 64 Bangladeshi migrants were found in a truck on a highway in North Macedonia near the Macedonian border with Greece.
Libya is an important way station for people attempting to reach Europe by journeying across the Mediterranean. At least 26 Bangladeshis – who were being trafficked to Europe illegally via Libya – were shot dead in the last week of May this year.
In May last year, around 39 Bangladeshis died on the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach Europe.
According to the Brac Migration Programme, around 693 Bangladeshis were detained from January to April this year while trying to reach Europe through the Mediterranean Sea.
According to migration experts, names of Bangladeshi recruiting agencies come out when such incidents occur, but no observable action is being taken against those agencies.
Syed Saiful Haque, chairman of WARBE Development Foundation, said, "Traffickers have a large network, and they are not getting the punishment they deserve. This is why we are still facing a strong threat of human trafficking.
He added that the initiatives of Bangladesh government are not sufficient and collaborative enough to curb the trafficking issue.