Boat Capsize in Mediterranean Sea

Hope for better life abroad turns fatal

Md Esaraf Hossain

13th May, 2019 10:30:40 printer

In search of better lives abroad, a large number of Bangladeshi youths are routinely embarking on a risky journey to end up in a rich European country, but sometimes it costs them their lives, not to mention their time, energy and money.

The risky venture becomes successful while at times it turns to be an abortive attempt.  

A big bunch of human traffickers having link with their foreign partners and immigration police officers in airport continue trafficking youths to foreign countries in exchange of a big amount of money and by giving them the high hopes for better fortune.

In the recent incident of fatal boat capsize in the Mediterranean, human traffickers selected Libya as their transit point for trafficking Bangladeshi fortune seekers to Italy, a detective source said.

Trafficking of Bangladeshi workers to Libya was also alarming as 30 to 40 Bangladeshis reportedly landed at Tripoli’s Metiga Airport illegally, it said.

The traffickers use fake visas and traffic the people to their destination countries, thus putting the lives of fortune seekers in danger. 

Trafficking of such innocent Bangladeshi job-seeker abroad including Italy and Greece and some middle-east countries of Kuwait and Libya and Malaysia with fake visas is still rampant.

Moreover, the Bangladesh Embassy in Libya is under pressure from the Libyan authorities to stop the illegal flow of Bangladeshis to the civil war-torn country.

Many Bangladeshis board engine trawlers in troubled sea route for their remote destinations including Italy, resulting in the deaths of many of them.

On Friday, around 60 migrants including 37 Bangladeshis reportedly died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea after it left Libya for Italy. Tunisian Red Crescent said this on Saturday.

The survivors told the Red Crescent the tragedy unfolded after some 75 people who had left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast late Thursday on a large boat were transferred to a smaller one that sank off Tunisia.

“The migrants were transferred into a smaller inflatable boat which was overloaded, and 10 minutes later it sank,” Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official in the southern Tunisian town of Zarzis, told a foreign media. Tunisian fishermen also rescued 16 people and brought them to shore in Zarzis. The survivors said they spent eight hours trapped in the cold sea before they were spotted by the fishermen who alerted the Tunisian coastguard, Slim said.

Though there were reports that 75 migrants were in the boat, the Tunisian Red Crescent said there were about 80 to 90 people in there.

Among the identities obtained by Bangladesh Red Crescent, most are from Sylhet, Kishoreganj, Sunamganj and Shariatpur districtrs. Of the 14 survivors, six are from Shariatpur. Four Bangladeshi survivors are undergoing treatment at a hospital in Tunisia as they fell sick after being rescued. Bangladesh Red Crescent Scociety is coordinating with the Tunisian Red Crescent, foreign ministry and International Organization for Migration in identifying the victims.

Recently, law enforcers arrested nine members of a travel agency on charges of fraudulence from the capital’s Nikunja area.

The arrestees are Md Shariful Islam, alias Sajib, 38, Md Golam Mostafa, alias Kamal, 50, Md Mokhlesur Rahman, 40, Md Asadul Haque, 38, Md Altaf Hosen, alias Rajib, 38, Md Asduzzaman alias Babu, alias Aziz, 29, Md Jahangir Alam, 32, Md Abdul Abdul Kader Sarkar, alias Nurunnobi alias Ratan, 40, Md Abul Kalam Azad, alias Hasan, alias Bullet, 43.

They used to take money from people by making fake documents and smart IDs, special superintendent of police for Criminal Investigation Department (CID) said at a press briefing in Dhaka.

They used to send many Bangladeshi poor and innocent people to foreign countries on fake visas in exchange of a big amount of money, the CID official said.

They had been carrying out such illegal act in cooperation with a section of dishonest airport immigration police, CID said.  CID Police also seized fake passports along with visas, 10 fake demand letters from several countries and Tk 7.95 lakh along with other illegal documents from the office.

Detective Branch (DB) police recently also unearthed a fake visa producing factory and arrested four people in this connection from the capital’s Uttara area. “We in a raid at Uttara arrested four people, Ziaul Haque Juel, Zakaria Mahmud, Mahbubur Rahman and Mamun Hossain, along with a huge quantity of counterfeit visa manufacturing equipment,” a DB official said.

Fourteen Bangladeshi passports with Schengen visa, fake vouchers of bank, a huge quantity of mate sticker paper, fake invitation of North Cyprus, bank guaranty papers, one CPU, one monitor, one scanner and a printer were seized from their possession, he also said.

During preliminary interrogation, the arrestees confessed to sending people abroad on fake visas.  Notably, once a lucrative labour market for Bangladeshis, the oil-rich east African country stopped hiring foreign workers since 2015.

Local agents of international trafficking racket usually allure youth, who become desperate to have overseas jobs amid rising unemployment at home, by giving the latter false hopes of lucrative jobs in Libya and Europe.  Besides, recently Malaysian immigration police have rescued 65 Bangladeshi workers believed to be the victims of human trafficking from the dormitory of a foreign worker recruitment company in Bandar Baru Nilai and arrested two Malaysians over the incident.

The striking team also seized 377 foreign passports of various countries and many more forged documents, Immigration Department Director-General Mustafar Ali told reporters in Putrajaya, reports some Bangladeshi private TV channels. According to Malaysian authorities, some 7,000 Bangladeshis have been detained in the country since January 1 this year for violating immigration rules.

Officials at the Bangladesh High Commission in Kuala Lumpur said some one million Bangladeshis now live in Malaysia, but nearly half of them might be undocumented. According to Migrant Rights Groups, most of the undocumented migrants are the victims of human trafficking or exploitation of the employers and agents.