As Bangladesh is still reeling from a recent unprecedented rise in illegal trafficking of humans to Southeast Asian countries, law enforcing and other sources say at least 1,000 traffickers are active across the country.
They stalk around poor families, picking men, women, boys and girls by giving false promises of lucrative jobs and marriage for young girls overseas. But unfortunately they mostly fall in traps laid by the traffickers and slave traders in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The girls often violated physically end up as domestic maids or in brothels.
A senior official of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) told the Daily Observer on Tuesday that at least 1,000 traffickers are now active around the country. But, he said, it is difficult to bring them to book as the victims cannot identify or give evidence against the traffickers or the middlemen who assist in the burgeoning illegal human trade.
But law enforcing agencies have stepped up monitoring of the trafficking gangs, he said, and hoped that the menace would be controlled gradually.
An official in the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism told this correspondent on Tuesday that lack of coordination and integrated action by the law enforcement agencies and concerned ministries are responsible for the rise in illegal migration and human trafficking.
The traffickers have many faces, some posing as travel agents fail to send people abroad through legal channels and put them on rickety boats sailing across the Bay of Bengal on way to foreign shores. There, recently, many boats had been denied landing by local authorities, some were pushed back and some were sent adrift with hundreds or thousands onboard - that triggered an international outcry against illegal trafficking and migration.
In human trafficking, not only influential political leaders but unscrupulous law enforcers including members of the Bangladesh Border Guard (BGB) are also involved, officials and NGOs dealing with the trafficking issue said.
The godfathers of human traffickers still roam the country scot free, they said. Only law enforcers in Cox's Bazar have prepared a list of 79 godfathers in Teknaf, the Southern-most tip of Bangladesh jutting into the Bay.
At present, some 2,000 recruiting agencies are doing manpower businesses in the country, according to the Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET). Under the law, the agencies can open offices across the country, but brokers who work as sub-agents for them are not recognised by the law.
At least 21 human traffickers and active members of an organised trafficking gang were arrested in last two months, Ataur Rahman Khandakar, Officer-in-Charge (OC) of Teknaf Police Station, told the Daily Observer.
So far more than 61 cases have been filed under the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act, 2012, but there is no visible progress of those cases, rights activists have said.
Legal experts have said crossfire is not a solution to the problem of human trafficking because at most times "sources are being killed and the godfathers remain unidentified and untouched."
Human trafficking is an organised crime. Dishonest people from both administration and law enforcement agencies and political persons are involved in the unlawful act."So, it is necessary to ensure vigilance at every related department and in borders areas," expert said.
Innocent, poor and uneducated people from different parts of the country are becoming victims of human trafficking in Bangladesh.
The International Labour Organisation estimated that in 2012, at least 20.9 million people around the world were trapped in forced labour, of which 9.1million people had been trafficked. More than half (11.7million) of those victims were from the Asia-Pacific region.
Human trafficking represented an estimated $31.6 billion of international trade per annum in 2010 and is now the fastest-growing means by which people are enslaved, the fastest growing international crime, and one of the largest sources of income for organised crime.
In fact, human trafficking is the second-largest source of illegal income worldwide, exceeded only by drug trafficking. And, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, there are even reports that some trafficking groups are switching their cargo from drugs to human beings, in a search of high profits at lower risk.
Sramik Nirapotta Forum (Workers' Safety Forum) has urged the government to form a special tribunal to stop illegal migration in line with the Human Trafficking Deterrence and Suppression Act, 2012.
The forum came up with the suggestion at a programme titled, 'Taking collective initiatives and formulating recommendations to stop human trafficking' held in the city.
They upheld some demands to the government to reduce the suffering of the workers who are either 'floating in the ocean' or have taken refuge after being rescued in different countries.
The demands include bringing back the workers immediately, then rehabilitating them, providing compensation to the affected workers or their families, giving exemplary punishment to the traffickers, activating human trafficking prevention committees in different districts, upazilas and union parishads, and increasing awareness among the people to prevent trafficking and illegal migration, according to a news agency.
The law enforcers have already started taking action against those who are involved in the human trafficking, Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told the Daily Observer.