The Bangladesh United Nations Network on Migration (BDUNNM) and members of the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group have urged the government, civil society actors, and private sector partners to collectively support a rights-based approach to combat human trafficking in the country.
In a press release issued on Wednesday -- one day before the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, the BDUNNM said about 40 million people globally are victims of modern slavery or trafficking. "Over 70 percent of these people are women and girls, many of whom are trapped in sexual exploitation," it added.
Mentioning that Bangladesh is a country of origin and destination for victims of trafficking, the press statement also cited UN estimates that say thousands are victimised by human trafficking in the country every year.
Recently published reports from ILO, Unicef and UNODC present evidence on how the Covid-19 virus may have a detrimental effect on the trafficking situation in general, it said.
The BDUNNM in its statement also referred to the annual Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report by the US Department of State, which measures countries' efforts to comply with the 'minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking' based on a tier ranking system.
The newly released 2020 TIP report ranks Bangladesh on Tier 2, which is an upgrade from the Tier 2 Watch List.
"In 2019, Bangladesh demonstrated commendable efforts to combat human trafficking compared to the previous reporting period. Efforts included convicting more traffickers, modestly increasing the number of victims identified, acceding to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol, establishing seven Anti-Trafficking Tribunals as stipulated in Bangladesh's anti-trafficking law," read the BDUNNM statement.
The TIP report came with a set of recommendations for Bangladesh. In line with these recommendations, the BDUNNM advocated for the government to establish a speedy and victim-friendly justice system.
"The activation of the newly established Anti-Trafficking Tribunals is key to strengthening the capacity of and coordination among law enforcing agencies, border security actors, immigration authority, social welfare services and the judiciary. For better community engagement, the Network further calls for activation of Counter-Trafficking Committees (CTCs) in collaboration with the NGOs and organisations supporting survivors of trafficking," it said.
Abu Bakr Siddique, additional secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs said trafficking in persons is a serious human rights violation and the government is actively taking steps to fight this horrific crime.
"However, the government is pleased to know that Bangladesh was upgraded to Tier 2 in the US Department of State's TIP report," he added.
In this regard and to further address the TIP report recommendations, the government will continue working to follow up on the National Plan of Action for Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking 2018-2022, including strengthen our institutional capacity to protect survivors of trafficking, prevent human trafficking and prosecute traffickers, Abu Bakr Siddique continued.
The year 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children (Palermo Protocol).
In his message on the World Day Against Trafficking, Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, said, "This year, on this day, I reiterate the global UN campaign against human trafficking which focuses on the first responders.
"In these exceptional times, we must commend the work of the first responders to human trafficking- people who identify, support, provide counselling and seek justice for survivors of trafficking simultaneously challenging the impunity of the traffickers."
During the Covid-19 crisis, the essential role of first responders has become even more important as survivors of trafficking are increasingly at risk during the pandemic. Without the first responders, access to services and support would be minimal," he concluded.
The BDUNNM will host a public webinar on the World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on Thursday. Key stakeholders from government, UN, and civil society will provide an overview of the situation in Bangladesh and report on the impact of counter-trafficking efforts, said the press release.