Stuck in Vietnam
- A racket trafficked 27 Bangladeshis to Vietnam in January
- Victims now jobless, penniless and on verge of starvation
- Victims seeking Bangladesh government's help to return home
- BMET says Foreign Ministry will decide on the matter soon
- Agencies will lose licenses if evidence of trafficking found
Starving and penniless, 27 Bangladeshi nationals in Vietnam, who fell victim to a human trafficking gang, are waiting anxiously for a chance to return home to their families.
Mahabubur Rahman Milon, 22, one of the trafficked victims hailing from Companiganj of Noakhali, shared his harrowing situation on the phone, "We can no longer afford to buy meals for ourselves because we have run out of money."
"We are on the verge of starvation, and barely surviving on dry food such as bread and biscuits," he said.
He continued, "Since July 3, we have been staying in a hotel near the Bangladesh embassy in Hanoi, the capital city of Vietnam. On the first three days, the Vietnam police provided one meal daily.
"Unfortunately, the Bangladesh embassy provided us with food only once in the last eight days."
A racket trafficked Mahabub and 26 others to Vietnam in January this year, and they are now seeking the Bangladesh government's help to return home.
Mahabub further said, "We had initially urged the Bangladesh embassy to arrange our return at the state's cost, but they did not respond. So, we now want to return home at our own cost. Although we do not have any money here, our family will take care of the expenditures."
"One of the employees of the Bangladesh embassy told us that we have only three options at this moment – we can go back to our previous employer, go to a Vietnamese court, or go to prison," he explained.
Adding that they do not have an employer, because they were trafficked to Vietnam by a racket, Mahabub said, "We just want to return to our country."
Commenting on the issue, Director General of the Bureau of Manpower, Employment and Training (BMET) Md Shamsul Alam said, "Our embassies are the shelter of migrants abroad."
"The foreign ministry is looking after the matter of 27 Bangladeshis in Vietnam. A top official of the ministry told me that they will make a decision on bringing them back very soon," he continued.
'Agencies involved to lose licenses'
The BMET has already summoned officials from the six recruiting agencies allegedly involved with the trafficking of 27 Bangladeshi nationals to Vietnam.
Md Shamsul Alam said, "We are investigating the matter. If we find evidence of their involvement in human trafficking, their licenses will be canceled. They will even have to bear the return costs of the 27 Bangladeshi victims.
Adding that all recruiting agencies have a FDR against their license, the BMET DG said, "Amid the Covid-19 situation, the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare and Overseas Employment has decided that an agency will be allowed to withdraw 50 percent of the FDR."
"However the decision will not be applicable to recruiting agencies that reportedly scammed the migrant workers in Vietnam, because we have barred those agencies from withdrawing their FDR," he continued.
The trafficked Bangladeshis had informed the Brac Migration Programme that they went to Vietnam through six recruiting agencies, who took Tk4-4.5 lakh from each of them.
These agencies are: Shandhani Overseas, Mam and Mam Overseas, Moon Air International, Estema International, Afeef International, and A Jharna Trade International.
Additionally, authorities also found the involvement of two other agencies – JK Overseas and Mash Career Services – as associates in the process.
Local middlemen had told the victims that they would be sent to Vietnam on work permits. However, the victims soon learned that they had tourist visas instead, and the middlemen in Vietnam confiscated their passports after they reached the country.
Mahabub, one of the victims stranded in Vietnam, revealed that another two groups of trafficked victims from Bangladesh, with 12 and 15 members respectively, also want to return home.
Addressing the matter, Shamim Ahmed Chowdhury Noman, general secretary Bangladesh International Recruiting Agencies (Baira), said, "More than 1,000 Bangladeshis went to Vietnam between June 2019 and March this year, under BMET's watch."
"How did they do it, while the BMET was playing the role of the regulatory body?" he said.
A press release, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs last Monday, read that although Vietnam is not a country that offers many work opportunities for prospective foreign workers, brokers traffic Bangladeshi workers through promises of sending them to prosperous countries such as Australia, New Zealand and rich parts of Southeast Asia.