Libya was a destination for many Bangladeshi migrants before it was torn apart by war. After the economy was ravaged and left in tatters, many migrants found it increasingly difficult to come back to Bangladesh.
With no scope of work in Libya and all ways to home barred, Bangladeshis are compelled to sail across the Mediterranean to Italy.
Minar, a Bangladeshi who worked as a civil engineer, told the Dhaka Tribune: “A lot of us plan on moving to Italy, because we have no other options when it comes to living our lives. We cannot go back, we cannot stay here, risking everything for a semblance of hope in Italy is all that we can do.
Desperation, fear, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness are driving Bangladeshi migrants in Libya to engage in a life of crime
“The economic condition of Libya is now worse than ever. Two years ago, it would take 1.3 Libyan Dinars to buy $1, now the same $1 is equal to 8.3 Libyan Dinars. It is because money transfer channels like Western Union and Moneygram packed up shop and left.”
Also Read- A passage to Italy: The Libyan connection
Minar explained that many Bangladeshis cannot afford the plane fare to come back to Bangladesh. The fact is aggravated by the fact that many migrants have had their salaries withheld by their employers for a very long time.
Instead of returning as a “failure,” many Bangladeshi venture the perilous crossing of Mediterranean to Italy to turn their lives around.
Barakat, another Bangladeshi living in Libya, said: “The entire trafficking syndicate is controlled by Libyan militias. Even the Coast Guard is involved because Libya is the only illegal route to Italy.”
The expatriate revealed that many Bangladeshis, who are out of options, are compelled to lure in other Bangladeshis into the trafficking ring.
He explained that different parts of the country, and sometimes parts of a city, are controlled by a variety of armed militia groups.
Also Read- A passage to Italy: Life in refugee camps
Each militia have their territory, like criminal gangs, and they facilitate all the crimes including human trafficking through their zones.
Mozammel Haque, political counsellor at the Bangladesh Embassy in Tripoli, said: “First, there are no options for work for Bangladeshis in Libya now. The country is economically dead, and our government has banned Bangladeshis from coming to Libya. And as far as traffickers go, we have already tracked many of them and handed over 10 to the local police.”
Desperation, fear, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness are driving Bangladeshi migrants in Libya to engage in a life of crime. Out of money, out of luck, they seek their fortunes by gambling their lives on the open sea, on a passage to Italy.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the migrants.
Fazlur Rahman Raju contributed to this report
Also Read- A passage to Italy: Death and dismay