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RAB: Multiple syndicates sent Bangladeshis to boat that sank in Tunisia

  • Published at 10:53 am May 17th, 2019
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RAB arrests three people for their alleged involvement in a recent boat capsize incident off the Tunisian coast, from different parts of Dhaka on Friday, May 17, 2019 Dhaka Tribune

The boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea on May 9

The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested three people for their alleged involvement in a recent boat capsize off the Tunisian coast.

The arrestees are Akkas Matubbar, 39; Enamul Haque Talukdar, 46; and Abdur Razzak Bhuiyan, 34.

RAB said five to six syndicates were involved in sending the boat’s Bangladeshi passengers. Of the three arrested, two are members of such syndicates. 

A boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea while its passengers attempted to reach Europe, from Libya, on May 9.

RAB's Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud Khan said, during a press briefing on Friday morning, that the arrestees were part of a human trafficking gang that was involved in the incident. 

The three were seized at the Abdullahpur, Khilkhet, and Airport Road areas of Dhaka early Friday.

Mufti Mahmud Khan said: “Two cases have been filed—at Naria police station of Shariatpur and Bishwanath police station of Sylhet—concerning the boat capsize incident.”

Arrestees Enamul and Razzak are members of same human trafficking syndicate, said RAB.

Enamul has a travel agency in Sylhet’s Zindabazar named Eyahiya overseas. 

“He [Enamul] has been doing this for 10-12 years. Razzak worked there as a broker. Another arrestee, Akkas, worked as a broker for another agency,” Mufti Mahmud Khan said.

After primary interrogation, RAB found that members of these syndicates give people false assurances of employment abroad.

“This group illegally sends people to Europe with the help of a foreign ring,” RAB's Legal and Media wing director said.

RAB said the syndicate works in three stages.

First they target poor people who want to go abroad to make a better living. They convince the people to give them money, in instalments. Each person pays around Tk700,000 to 800,000. The passports and visas are prepared, then tickets are purchased. 

The syndicate initially collects Tk450,000-Tk500,000 from each person, and the migrants are sent to Libya first.

The rest of the money is collected, and the people are sent to Europe from Libya.

“At each stage, this syndicate has their own people,” Mufti Mahmud Khan added.

The RAB official said that according to the arrestees, members of this group use several routes in order to send people from Bangladesh to Libya. Depending on the convenience of the routes, they sometimes change or set new routes. Recently, they have been using three routes to send people to Libya.

The routes are: Bangladesh - Istanbul (Turkey) - Libya; Bangladesh - India - Sri Lanka - Istanbul (Transit) - Tripoli (Libya);  and Bangladesh - Dubai (UAE) - Amman (Jordan) (Transit) - Benghazi (Libya) or Tripoli (Libya).   

The Legal and Media Wing director said when they faced problems regarding documents, the agent from Tripoli sent paperwork via social media. 

After reaching Tripoli, other agents—including a well-known Bangladeshi man nicknamed "Good-Luck Bhai—"receive them and they stay in Tripoli for several days.

After reaching Libya or Turkey, people have to pay the remainder of the money. After the syndicate receives all the cash from the people, they teach a few of them to drive the boats and find their destination.

“The human traffickers then get a boat ready. None of the trafficking ring members boards the boat. The people are instructed about how to get to Europe and are sent off into the water,” the RAB official said.

Since the establishment of RAB, the elite force has conducted 209 operations and arrested 609 people for illegal transit or trafficking. RAB has rescued 814 victims, including 704 men and 110 women.

On May 9, two boats—one carrying 50, and another 75, people—set out simultaneously from Zouara, Libya. One possibly reached Italy, while the other capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, near Zarzis, Tunisia. 

Of the 75 migrants on board, 54 were Bangladeshis, and 40 of them are feared dead. Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said of the 54 Bangladeshi migrants onboard, 14 were rescued. The Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday, released a list of 39 Bangladeshis who went missing in the incident.