The men were lured with well-paid jobs in the European nation
Six Bangladeshi fortune-seekers have died of heatstroke in the Mediterranean after they, along with many, others set off for Italy from Libya on an engine boat.
One of their co-travellers, also a Bangladeshi, who survived the incident, confirmed the deaths, during which at least another 10 Bangladeshis aboard had also fallen sick.
The deceased have been identified as Hridoy Kazi, Sagar Sikder, Zinnat Sheikh, and Sadhan Mallik of Madaripur, and Sajib Munshi and Afzal Mridha of Gopalganj.
At least 17 Bangladeshi migrants had drowned in a shipwreck off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to Italy from Libya, the Tunisian Red Crescent said on July 22.
More than 380 others were rescued by the coastguard at the same time.
The boat had set off from Zuwara, on Libya's northwest coast, carrying migrants from Bangladesh, Syria, Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea and Mali, the humanitarian organization said.
Survivor Hridody Miah said they started their voyage on July 19.
“The boat engine broke down halfway through, leaving us stranded under the scorching heat in the sea. Soon after, many on the boat started to fall sick,” he recalled.
Hridoy said Kazi was too exhausted and died on his lap soon hours after the engine stopped functioning.
Later on, they were rescued off the Tunisian coast and taken to a hospital, he said.
“I don’t remember where Zinnat, Sajib, Afzal, Sagar and Sadhan were, but later came to know they too died because of the heat,” Hridoy, who is now being treated along with other survivors at a Tunisian hospital.
Quoting him, his relatives at his village home in Madaripur’s Rajoir upazila said some 10-15 others from the locality were also hospitalized with him.
Lured with jobs
Family members of the six deceased said the men were tricked into going to Libya three months ago.
Human traffickers lured them with well-paid jobs in Italy, which is why they risked their own lives to travel through the rough sea all the way from Libya.
Zinnat’s mother Halima Sheikh said: “Reazul Sheikh and Shahidul Mollah [two local human traffickers] made us pay Tk11 lakh in phases, promising my son a better future in Italy.”
The devastated mother demanded justice for her son.
A similar story was narrated by Azizul Mridha, the brother of Afzal, who also named several people who are allegedly involved in human trafficking.
“Muksudpur upazila resident Elias Fakir, Tutul Fakir in collusion with Rajoir’s Sahahin Sardar, Rezaul Sheikh, Shahidul Mollah, Elias Sheikh and Liton Mollah pocketed Tk7-10 lakh from such fortune-seekers,” Azizul said.
Rajoir police station Officer-in-Charge Anwar Hossain said they would take legal action if complaints were filed against these people.
Dhaka Tribune tried to reach out to the alleged human traffickers, who are currently in Libya, but they were unavailable for comments.
Earlier this month, at least 43 migrants including multiple Bangladeshi nationals had drowned in a shipwreck off Tunisia as they tried to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.
In recent months, several people have drowned off the Tunisian coast, with an increase in the frequency of attempted crossings to Europe from Tunisia and Libya towards Italy as the weather has improved.
Hundreds of thousands of people have made the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East.
Arrivals in Italy, one of the main migrant routes into Europe, had been falling in recent years, but numbers picked up again in 2021.