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“All Citizens are Equal before Law and are Entitled to Equal Protection of Law”-Article 27 of the Constitution of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh

Issue No: 184
August 28, 2010

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Human Rights analysis

Police: In efforts to restrict labour trafficking

Samaha M Karim


Labour trafficking is an emerging and controversial concept in Bangladesh. Even now, we are comfortable defining this offence as unsafe migration or labour exploitations or smuggling of migrants. It may be a political or debatable issue but the exploitations and fraudulent practices which cause suffering to the migrants need equitable redress under our domestic legal framework. Our age old migration process under the Emigration Ordinance is not adequate to deal with the unscrupulous practices of the recruiting agencies with are taking place within its ambit. According to US State Department's Trafficking in Person Report, 2010, “a significant share of Bangladesh's trafficking victims are men recruited for work overseas with fraudulent employment offers who are subsequently exploited under conditions of forced labour or debt bondage”. This report ranked Bangladesh in Tier 2 Watch-list, which states, “ During the year, the government did not demonstrate measures to reduce the demand for forced labour or for commercial sex acts”. It also refers recent studies, which states that, “the majority of human trafficking in the world takes the form of forced labour. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimates that for every ten trafficking victim subjected to forced prostitution, nine people are forced to work. Also known as involuntary servitude, forced labour may result when unscrupulous employers exploit workers made more vulnerable by high rates of unemployment, poverty, crime, discrimination, corruption, political conflict, or cultural acceptance of the practice. Immigrants are particularly vulnerable, but individuals also may be forced into labour in their own countries. Female victims of forced or bonded labour, especially women and girls in domestic servitude, are often sexually exploited as well”.

Classifying victims of trafficking
Bangladesh lacks a comprehensive law on combating human trafficking. Nari-O-Shishu Nirjatan Daman Ain 2000 mostly governs cases concerning women and children who are mainly trafficked for sexual exploitation and or immoral purposes. Labour trafficking is a grey area.

Role of Bangladesh Police
As we do not have any specific laws to deal with labour trafficking normally our police file these cases under Criminal Procedure Code, Passport Ordinance and Emigration ordinance. Thus the victim himself is criminalised which amplifies his sufferings to a greater extent.

Bangladesh police in order to minimise labour trafficking carries out a screening process by way of which it is trying to control illegal immigration. Police also has the authority to blacklist names, which prohibits one from getting passport. This is a measure used to minimise labour trafficking.

In order to address labour trafficking, the police on a regular basis scan and make inquiry about advertisements made on newspapers and leaflets with regards to agencies which promise to send one abroad. The police try to assure that the offers are rational and come from only licensed genuine agencies. They also take steps against those recruiting agencies which are not genuine by recommending to cancel their license among other measure. When required the police can also enforce actions against publishing houses for aiding such forged agencies in their deceptive activities. Most fraudulent offers have stopped repeating in publishing houses.

Difficulties faced during investigation: Human trafficking in general is an organised crime, it involves a lot of stakeholders who take part in the process. Organised crimes are difficult to solve without availability of appropriate enforceable instruments. A comprehensive legislation can make it easier to solve such organised crimes. Without the correct legal instruments it becomes difficult to allocate the offence under the accurate legal definition rendering it illegal.

First and foremost there are legal loopholes and the police lacks tools. For example, if the police had access to a database such as the National ID, the process of finding, identifying and investigating a reported offender would become speedier. A lot of times victims and witnesses do not report offences because they are not willing to invest their time and energy into the investigation process which is tedious and time consuming.

Upcoming facilities to help labour migrants
Bangladesh police will soon launch “Citizen Help Request” on its website by way of which nationals of Bangladesh living here and abroad can seek help online, report suspicious behaviour etc. Bangladesh police has already started on its website facilities of making GD. GDs made online are sent to local thanas from where inquiry starts more promptly. Mere information on the website would suffice.

Bangladesh police also plans begin SMS Complain, which means soon one can make GD via SMS.

Further development also includes a separate cell for migrants who are living abroad namely 'Probashi Shohaiota Cell', where a migrants or an aggrieved person can lodge a complaint or information regarding migration issues.

The writer works with Law Desk.

Recommendations for a comprehensive law on trafficking

In a recent workshop, BNWLA proposed the following recommendations to the Law Minister. Legal experts from Bangladesh and India made the following recommendations. At present, the Government of Bangladesh is planning to draft a comprehensive law on human trafficking and these recommendations were made to enhance Government's effort to do so.

1. SAARC countries need to make laws regarding trafficking in persons.
2. GD and 'Ezhar' should be made online in order to create a network.
3. Definitions of 'child' and 'trafficking' should be made more specific.
4. Video conferencing facilities and such other facilitates require to be developed and made available.
5. It must be assured that witnesses will be present during trial when required.
6. The prosecution system must be victim friendly.
7. Trail in Camera or private trial system must be incorporated.
8. The current laws used for trafficking offences need to be updated/amended.

1. Separate inquiry cell required.
2. Inquiry must be carried out and completed within a fixed/certain time period.
3. Victim/witness protection laws to be made
4. All agencies should have ID cards in order to validate legitimacy.
5. A separate officer should be assigned for protection of victim and witness during inquiry process.
6. The officer in charge of inspection of the 'crime scene' must be provided administrative and legal protection by an updated law with regards to their protection.
7. When the case involves two locations, the entire case file should be allowed to be taken to the other area if required.

Rescue and resettlement
1. Child welfare committee should be established.
2. According to the SAARC Convention, Mutual Legal Assistance between countries should be made available /activated /established.
3. The laws used with regards to trafficking offences should be updated in accordance with the SAARC Convention.
4. The expenses for resettlement should be provided by the both the countries, i.e. the source and destination countries.

-From Law Desk.


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