Four Bangladeshi trafficking victims who were rescued in West African country of Togo have returned home after more than 18 months of their uncertain journey.
Transnational traffickers tortured and snatched a huge amount of money from them as the Bangladeshis were lured by their possible entry to Italy in Europe, said the victims and their supportive organizations.
The victim returnees were identified as Saidur Rahman of Dhaka, Al Amin of Gopalganj, Abul Hassan of Jhenidah and Easin of Chandpur.
Awaj Foundation in collaboration with Solidarity Centre and ITUC Africa contacted, rescued and supported the victims in Lome, the capital of Togo. The victims were repatriated with the help of International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Government of Bangladesh with its mission in Morocco.
The victims were repatriated by a scheduled flight of Turkish Airline that landed in Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on Friday morning, said an official.
Wage Earners Welfare Board assistant director Fakhrul Alam who is in charge of the welfare desk in the airport said he is informed about the arrival of four victims.
The returnees said that after completing the procedure of Covid-19 tests, they started the journey from Lome international airport and then they had separate transits in Ghana and Turkey.
Organized rackets, including Bangladeshis and foreign nationals, were involved with the trafficking of the Bangladeshis, the anti-trafficking campaigners said.
Awaj Foundation executive director Nazma Akter told the Business Insider Bangladesh that it was a great victory for the victims as they were able to return home safely.
She said that transnational criminals were trafficking the young people offering fake jobs in Europe and other developed countries. All stakeholders including trade unions and the government should have to play more active role in stopping human trafficking, she observed.
“There are many more young Bangladeshis still facing the same problems in different African countries,” she said, adding that a strong partnership should be in place to ensure safe migration and good governance in overseas employment from Bangladesh.
The victims were kept at the Centre De Conference-CSI Afrique in Lome. They said that they were taken to Togo by air with the promise of being sent to Italy. But they were kept in different houses controlled by traffickers for more than one year, they said.
The four victims were finally rescued by the trade unionists in Togo in collaboration with ITUC and placed in a shelter home in Lome.
Each of the four victims of Bangladesh, according to their statement, paid Tk17 lakh to Tk20 lakh to traffickers in guise of brokers who promised to send them to Italy.
Togo was used as a temporary destination maybe due to its existing ‘Visa on Arrival’ facilities for the Bangladeshi citizens, they observed.
On return home, Saidur Rahman, one of the four victims, told this correspondent on Saturday that they just returned home after facing ordeals of 18 months in Togo.
He said that the traffickers in Togo had snatched away over $12,000 (equivalent to Tk10 lakh) from his possession which he took with him from Bangladesh.
The traffickers in Togo used to take him to local graveyards and threaten him of killing, he said, adding that the criminals threatened him saying that people could be killed and buried in African countries at a cost of very small amount of money (as low as equivalent to Tk10,000).
He claimed that they were physically tortured by traffickers if they requested them to either send them to Europe or set them free.
Saidur reached Togo by air from Dhaka Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. On his way to Togo he had transit points in Bangkok and Addis Ababa. After making a 27-hour air journey, he landed in Lome airport in Togo where he was granted a tourist visa.
From Lome airport, he was well received by two people including one Bangladeshi and another African and was taken to a house where he met three more Bangladeshis. They were brought to that country the same way days ago.
According to the US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report 2020, the Bangladesh government did not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but was making significant efforts to do so.
Therefore, Bangladesh has been placed in the Tier 2 list, said the TIP report.