Legal gaps in holding perpetrators into account and low conviction rates in human trafficking cases are the major challenges to combat the transnational crime, said anti-human trafficking advocates at a national dialogue on Wednesday.
At a discussion on the occasion of "World Day against Trafficking in Persons", they emphasised that human trafficking is primarily caused by exploiting financial needs, climate migration, and limited access to legal migration.
Masud Bin Momen, foreign secretary of Bangladesh, said the 2022 Global Report on Trafficking in Persons reveals an 11% reduction in global trafficking victims in 2020 compared to the previous year. This decline is mainly attributed to reduced detection in low and medium-income countries.
He mentioned a 56% drop in trafficking-related convictions in South Asia, highlighting potential legal gaps in holding perpetrators accountable.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said recognising human trafficking as a heinous crime, the Bangladesh government maintains a zero-tolerance stance and remains in tier two in the US human trafficking report 2023, reflecting its sustained efforts to combat this crime.
To mark the day, the Public Security Division of the Home Ministry, in association with the Counter Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group of the Bangladesh UN Network on Migration, held the national dialogue in Dhaka.
In a presentation, Ishita Rony, deputy secretary of the Public Security Division, pointed out that the real scenario cannot be determined as the victims' database is not preserved.
Low conviction rates and court backlogs impede effective criminal justice responses to crime. The challenges of securing sufficient evidence further compound the issue, she added.
"We are planning to create a robust software that will record every reported human trafficking case, including international reports," Ishita Rony informed.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) Global Report, 41% of victims who manage to escape their ordeal reach out to the authorities on their own initiative, another clear sign that anti-trafficking responses are falling short.
Gwyn Lewis, United Nations Resident Coordinator in Bangladesh, urged the government to guarantee access to national protection services for all trafficking survivors, including Rohingyas, with the help of humanitarian and development partners.
She also emphasised enhancing the capabilities of law enforcement agencies in identifying and referring trafficking victims, conducting investigations, and prosecuting perpetrators.
Marco Teixeira, UNODC's Regional Representative of South Asia, said, "Together, we must do more to put an end to this heinous crime, support survivors, and prosecute traffickers."