Bangladesh launches trafficker crackdown after Mediterranean deaths

Ahmed Bilal (C), a Bangladeshi and a survivor of a boat carrying migrants that sunk in the Mediterranean during the night of 9 and 10 May, rests with fellow survivors at a shelter in the Tunisian coastal city of Zarzis on May 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2019

Bangladesh launches trafficker crackdown after Mediterranean deaths

  • Authorities sealed off 23 travel agencies in northeastern Sylhet district after it was found many were working for international trafficking networks
  • Magistrate Nasirullah Khan said the crackdown will continue against the “greedy and illegal travel agents” who prey on unemployed young men

DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities have launched a crackdown on suspected people-smugglers masquerading as “travel agents” after dozens of Bangladeshis drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, officials said Thursday.
About 60 people died last week when a boat full of would-be migrants capsized while trying to cross from Libya to Italy, in a case that has put the spotlight on the desperate struggle of young unemployed Bangladeshis to find work abroad.
Fourteen Bangladeshis were among 16 people rescued by Tunisian fishermen, while Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said 39 Bangladeshis were unaccounted for.
Families of those who died said the so-called “travel agents” took money from youths in exchange for a passage to Libya and the promise of a sea crossing to Europe.
Authorities sealed off 23 travel agencies in northeastern Sylhet district after it was found many were working for international trafficking networks, Momen said.
“We will take stern action against these agents,” he told reporters.
Five mobile courts set up on the back of trucks ordered jail terms for nine suspected traffickers and another 29 were fined, said Sylhet government administrator Kazi Emdadul Islam.
Magistrate Nasirullah Khan said the crackdown will continue against the “greedy and illegal travel agents” who prey on unemployed young men.
“We want to ensure no mother would ever lose her child again,” he said.
Tens of thousands of young Bangladeshi men have attempted the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, and the number of traffickers catering to them has mushroomed.
While the Bangladesh economy has grown at an annual clip of 6-7 percent through the decade, there are still not enough jobs and many young men try to reach Europe and North America on death-defying illegal routes.
Growing unemployment is fueling desperation to escape, said Professor Jalal Uddin Sikder, a migration expert at the University of Liberal Arts in Dhaka.
“Low paid jobs are available but these young men want better paid jobs in the West,” he told AFP.
“But many do not survive the long, tiring journey through the desert and across the seas, while some get sold as slaves even before they reach the Libyan coast.”


Myanmar troops’ sexual violence against Rohingya shows ‘genocidal intent’ — UN report

Updated 23 August 2019

Myanmar troops’ sexual violence against Rohingya shows ‘genocidal intent’ — UN report

  • Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes, says report
  • A military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh

UNITED NATIONS: Sexual violence committed by Myanmar troops against Rohingya women and girls in 2017 was an indication of the military’s genocidal intent to destroy the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, United Nations investigators concluded in a report released on Thursday.
The panel of independent investigators, set up by the UN Human Rights Council in 2017, accused Myanmar’s government of failing to hold anyone accountable and said it was responsible “under the Genocide Convention for its failure to investigate and punish acts of genocide.”
A military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state that began in August 2017 drove more than 730,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh. Myanmar denies widespread wrongdoing and says the military campaign across hundreds of villages in northern Rakhine was in response to attacks by Rohingya insurgents.
“Hundreds of Rohingya women and girls were raped, with 80 percent of the rapes corroborated by the Mission being gang rapes. The Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) was responsible for 82 percent of these gang rapes,” the report said.
The Myanmar government has refused entry to the UN investigators. The investigators traveled to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia, and met with aid groups, think-tanks, academics and intergovernmental organizations.
In an August 2018 report, the investigators laid out five indicators of genocidal intent by the Myanmar military: the use of derogatory language; specific comments by government officials, politicians, religious authorities and military commanders prior, during and after the violence; the existence of discriminatory plans and policies; evidence of an organized plan of destruction; and the extreme brutality of the campaign.
“The Mission now concludes on reasonable grounds that the sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls that began on 25 August 2017 was a sixth factor that indicated the Tatmadaw’s genocidal intent to destroy the Rohingya people,” the new report said.
The conclusion was based on “the widespread and systematic killing of women and girls, the systematic selection of women and girls of reproductive ages for rape, attacks on pregnant women and on babies, the mutilation and other injures to their reproductive organs, the physical branding of their bodies by bite marks on their cheeks, neck, breast and thigh.”
It said that two years later no military commanders had been held accountable for these and other crimes under international law and that the government “notoriously denies responsibility.”
“Myanmar’s top two military officials remain in their positions of power despite the Mission’s call for them to be investigated and, if appropriate, prosecuted for war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide,” the report said.
The investigators said they had collected new information about alleged perpetrators and added their names to a confidential list that will be shared with the UN Human Rights chief Michelle Bachelet and another UN inquiry charged with collecting and preserving evidence for possible future trials.