Legal experts and civil society members at a roundtable on 20 June demanded an all-out drive to arrest and punish human traffickers, irrespective of the strings they pull, to uproot the slave trade menace.
Bangladesh has to first take action against those based locally and establish bilateral and regional collaboration, including intelligence sharing, to root out the international trafficking networks, they said.
“It is surprising how lakhs of people have been trafficked for long through the Bay of Bengal despite active presence of law enforcers — border guards, coast guards and navy,” said Jahangir Alam Khan, chair of ALERT.
The Association for Law Research & Human Rights (ALERT) organised the roundtable on “ways to prevent human trafficking in the light of the spirit of Liberation War” in the capital’s Jatiya Press Club.
Following the discovery of mass graves in Thailand, some 5,000 victims, Rohingyas facing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis seeking jobs, have been rescued in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Myanmar since late April.
“We know that many influential people, including a parliament member and a Teknaf panel mayor, are on the government list of suspected human traffickers, but they are out of the government’s reach,” said Jahangir.
Since some members of the administration and law enforcement agencies are allegedly involved, the government must take a hardline stance for a serious investigation is required, he added.
Human traffickers take advantage of these for many are eager to go abroad to change their fortunes, he said.
The Liberation War’s spirit is social and economic justice but there is a long way to go before these can be established, said Ahsan, adding, “If we fill own pockets instead of serving common people, things will not change.”
Security analyst Maj Gen (retd) AKM Md Ali Shikder pointed out that Bangladeshis were also being trafficked to the Middle East through India and Pakistan.
Bangladesh Press Council Chairman Justice Md Mamtaz Uddin Ahmed, Lt Gen (retd) ATM Zahirul Alam, freedom fighter Dr Syeda Badrunnahar Chowdhury also spoke at the discussion moderated by ALERT Senior Vice Chairman Manoranjan Ghoshal.