The Roundtable-Stakeholder-Meeting on Counter Trafficking and Labour Migration Laws, Policies and Mechanisms in Bangladesh was held at Hotel Lake Castle in Dhaka on Saturday.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation in Law (SAARCLAW) and the Solidarity Center, Bangladesh, jointly organized the half-day roundtable.
Senior lawyers, migrants’ rights campaigners, trade union leaders and returnee workers actively took part in the roundtable discussion.
They observed that Bangladeshi migrant workers were often forced to face various problems at home and abroad due to lack of enforcement of relevant migration and counter-trafficking laws.
Judge at Bangladesh Supreme Court Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed was the chief guest at the roundtable while Country Program Director of Solidarity Center, Bangladesh, Christopher K Johnson also made opening and closing remarks at the function.
In his speech, Christopher K Johnson said that the issues of migration caused by the adverse effect of climate change and the globalizations impacted on the people’s lives in Latin America, Sub Sahara Africa and South Asia.
Expressing keenness to deal on the issues of safe labour movement and counter trafficking, he said that there were many organizations involved in the sector promoting workers’ rights and ending scourge of child labor, forced labor and human trafficking.
Following opinions of some participants, Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed echoed that Bangladesh government would have to be ‘more labour friendly’ to execute relevant laws to protect rights of the migrant workers.
He, however, stressed the need for facilitating the labour migration through legal channels from Bangladesh to reduce human trafficking and illegal movement of people.
About recent issues of displaced so called Bangladeshi people in Indian states of Assam and Meghalaya the Supreme Court Judge suggested the SAARCLAW forum to take their effective legal steps to mitigate the problems illegal migration issues in the subcontinent.
Forecasting climate induced migration to be increasing in Bangladesh, he said that by 2050 over 30 million people would be climate hit migrants and they would be moving towards neighboring India first. So it is urgently necessary to find out solutions of the future problems, he added.
Presenting a research paper at the Roundtable, Barrister Lutfun Kadir said that there were 3500 cases were filed across the country since formulation of the Prevention and suppression of Human Trafficking Act in 2012.
‘However not a single case has been disposed of.’
She said that court proceedings were lengthy and there was no separate tribunal for quick disposal of cases.
About Overseas Employment and Migration Act 2013, she said very little prosecution was taking place under this law since its enactment.
‘Many victims and even law enforcers do not have proper knowledge about 2013 act,’ she said.
Referring to the trafficking of workers through sea route, WARBE Development Foundation secretary general Faruque Ahmed said that Thailand has punished top army officer-- Major General who had fled to Australia, but there was no such example of punishment in Bangladesh.
He said that there were big shots involved in the human trafficking published in newspaper but they were out of the legal action.
WARBE Development Foundation chairman Syed Saiful Haque that the government has not yet prepared the rules of the Prevention and suppression of Human Trafficking Act, 2012.
He said that there was no provision to bring middlemen, who cheat and exploit aspiring migrants with high costs that they were charging, under the overseas employment law enacted in 2013.
Bangladesh Ovibashi Adhikar Forum Chairman Nazmul Ahsan said that victim migrants felt scared to file cases as the law enforcers harassed them.
Bangladeshi Ovhibashi Mohila Sramik Association director Sumaiya Islam said that sending female workers under conditions of sending male workers was inhuman and it should not be allowed.
She called for ratifying the ILO convention 189 that calls for ensuring decent living and working conditions for domestic workers.
BOMSA chairman Lily Jahan said that the victims were returning home empty handed and they have no money to file cases and hire lawyers.
Senior lawyer at Supreme Court KM Saifuddin Ahmed said Bangladesh ambassadors and labour officers at the workers recipient countries were not properly working to solve the problems of migrant workers.
In his closing remarks, SAARLAW vice president and MK Rahman said that there were weaknesses in the migration law in 2013 needed to be emended.
He said that all concerned ministries should have to sincerely discharge their duties without depending on the Prime Minister’s gesture.
SAARCLAW secretary general Muhammad Mohsen Rashid made his welcome address while trade union leader Abul Hossain and representatives from different workers’ rights organizations, spoke at roundtable.