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Dhaka Tribune

‘It was like living a nightmare’: Libya attack survivor recounts tale of horror

Nine survivors of the tragic incident that took the lives of 26 Bangladeshis in Libya returned home

Update : 03 Oct 2020, 12:23 PM

Syed Khan, a migrant who survived a massacre that took the lives of 26 Bangladeshis in Libya, said the shooting incident has left a lasting mark on his mind like a living nightmare.

He said: "I can't forget the incident. It was like living a nightmare. I was shot and it took me four months to recover enough to make the journey home. Many of us haven't fully recovered and we are still traumatized.”

"I am grateful to the IOM and the government of Bangladesh for the medical and other support they provided in Libya and for arranging my flight home," he said.

Syed and eight other survivors of the Libya attack returned home last week on a voluntary humanitarian flight from Libya.

The chartered flight landed at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) in Dhaka last Wednesday with 164 Bangladeshi migrants, a press release of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Saturday.

Syed will receive medical and psychosocial follow up support, and financial assistance, to start a business so he can provide for his family.

In May, 30 migrants including 26 Bangladeshis were shot and killed in a smuggling warehouse in Mizdah.

Also Read - 26 Bangladeshis killed in Libya revenge attack

The deadly attack in Mizdah, near the city of Gharyan, southwest of Tripoli also left 11 other migrants critically injured.

The survivors were supported by IOM and partners in the subsequent months.

According to the IOM, there were also over 100 other vulnerable migrants, including 39 with medical conditions, on the flight back from Libya.

IOM medical escorts travelled with the migrants and upon arrival, health teams were on site to coordinate health care for migrants who will quarantine at government facilities, provide referral support to specialized services, and follow up support to migrants with chronic conditions.

Eligible migrants will receive reintegration support once they have completed their government mandated quarantine period. Follow up care is particularly important for migrants who experienced physical and psychological trauma, stranded in Libya.

Dozens arrested in Bangladesh

Following the Libya attack, law enforcement agencies in the country arrested more than 50 people who were involved in extorting money from people on false promises of jobs overseas.

The migrants killed in Libya were taken hostage by an armed group. They were tortured for ransom. Even though they were paid up to $10,000 by each hostage, the traffickers demanded a large amount of money again.

At one stage, the traffickers fired indiscriminately, killing 26 Bangladeshis and two others in the process.

164 migrants from Bangladesh, including nine survivors of the Mizdah incident, left Libya earlier this week | Courtesy

The United Nations’ International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates there are about 21,000 Bangladeshi migrants in Libya, accounting for about 3% of the migrant population.

Libya has long been a destination for migrants because of its oil economy, but is also an important way station for people attempting to reach Europe across the Mediterranean.

Over 700,000 people in Bangladesh go overseas looking for jobs every year, which has made Bangladesh one of the largest exporters of labour. Bangladesh depends heavily on money sent home from overseas workers.

Local unlicensed agents exploit aspiring migrants with promises of comfortable living and good jobs overseas that don’t exist.

Because of the human trafficking record in the country, the US Department of State has put Bangladesh on a watch list for the past three years.

Human rights activists voiced concern that many of the arrested following the Libya attack case may walk free due to the country’s low conviction rate for trafficking crimes. The rate of conviction was 0.4% between 2013 and 2019, according to the US Trafficking in Persons report.

Syeda Zannat Ara, special superintendent of CID said: “People from low income families are targeted by  human trafficking rings. However, the way these traffickers tortured the victims in Libya is beyond description.”

“The victims are tortured horrifically to extort money from their relatives. There are many incidents like these. We have made some progress in investigating these issues,” she added.

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