'It’s been four years, but I have not heard anything from law enforcement about my case. All they say is that the courts will decide my fate and that of my case'
Syeda (pseudonym) left her children and physically disabled husband in 2015 to escape poverty and run her family with an overseas job she was promised by human traffickers. To pay for this venture she took out a loan.
She was told she would go to Lebanon and get a job there. But instead, she was trafficked to war-torn Syria, where she endured physical and mental torture for months.
Syeda later managed to return home, but now all she is left with is the burden of the loan.
“It’s been four years, but I have not heard anything from law enforcement about my case. All they say is that the courts will decide my fate and that of my case ,” she said.
The mother of two said all she knows about her case is that the traffickers responsible for her ordeal are currently out on bail.
There are 4,668 cases like Syeda’s across the country, but the conviction rate is very low.
Perpetrators in only 33 cases have been prosecuted so far in the last six years, which is nly 0.5% of the total case load of this sort, , said Brac’s Migration Program Head Shariful Hasan, quoting data from police’s Trafficking in Persons cell, and court records.
Between 2013 and 2019, a total of 4,668 cases were filed and only 245 of them were resolved. 4,106 cases are still pending trial.
The highest number of cases was filed from Dhaka and the second highest in Jessore, followed by Cox’s Bazar.
The information has come to light ahead of the World Day against Trafficking in Persons, which is being observed on Tuesday.
DIG (Special Investigation and Intelligence) Md Shah Alam of police’s Criminal Investigation Department told Dhaka Tribune that the first thing most human trafficking victims try to do after returning home is recover the money they gave to the traffickers.
He said many of the cases get resolved after the defendants settle by paying compensation to the victims.
The victims, however, get victimized further when they sue the traffickers, he said, and added that their ordeal includes threats from the defendants, being accused in false cases, and social pressure.
Some victims, particularly women, often back out after facing social stigma as a human trafficking victim. “Sometimes the victim is on one side and the rest of the community is on the other side.”
Alam said the father of one such victim, withdrew the case they filed because he said he would not be able to give his daughter in marriage if the case continued.
The Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012, says the person committing the offense of human trafficking shall be punished with imprisonment, not exceeding imprisonment for life, but not less than five years of rigorous imprisonment, and a fine of not less than Tk50,000.
Brac’s Shariful told Dhaka Tribune that one of the main reasons for victims withdrawing their cases is that most traffickers are socially and economically powerful in comparison to their victims.
He also said the Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals try human trafficking cases, given there is no separate tribunal for such cases.
“Women and Children Repression Prevention Tribunals are already overburdened with the cases they are specifically tasked to deal with,” he said. “Forming tribunals dedicated for human trafficking cases is now a must to expedite the ongoing trials and overwhelming case load.”