In recent times, youths in Sylhet have become desperate to migrate to European countries, even at great risk to their finances and personal safety. The tendency is particularly acute among the residents of Beanibazar upazila.
Recently, four young men of the area went missing while they were crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy via Libya. There are hundreds like them who started their trip to Europe using Libya and Turkey as transit points along their route. A good number of them went missing before they reached the destination.Surprisingly, their family members are reluctant to cooperate with the authorities.
Abani Shankar Kar, officer-in-charge of Beanibazar Police Station, said a 28-year-old youth named Tuhin went missing on his way to Europe. He communicated with his family members for the last time on May 6.
Another youth, Abdul Halim Sujon, 32, went missing in the same way. He is the son of late Ahmad Ali of Maijkapon village in Muria union.
Sujon was an auto-rickshaw driver here. Being enticed by the fantasy of a luxurious life and good job in Europe, he contracted with a broker named Parvej Ahmed about a year back to get to Italy at a cost of nearly Tk 1 million (he paid Tk 983,000). He had started his journey to Italy soon after and reached Libya, said his elder brother Abdul Alim.
After waiting in war-torn Libya for a long time, he along with others boarded a trawler meant for Italy via the Mediterranean Sea on May 9. From then, Sujon is missing. The broker, who sent him on the trip, confirmed to Sujon’s family that he boarded an Italy-bound trawler.
Hearing news of the recent boat containing Bangladeshis capsizing in the Mediterranean, killing dozens of them, Abdul Alim expressed his fear that his brother might have drowned in the sea.Earlier, two other people named Rafik Ahmed and Ripon Ahmed went missing in the same way.
Three people of Sylhet went missing in the Mediterranean Sea three years ago. They are Imon, 22, Faridul Alam, 24, and Imran, 30. But no case has been filed yet in this regard. The silences may have something to do with the fact that they embarked on their journey knowing full well that their route fell outside the law.
A source requesting to be unnamed said that at least 1,200 people of Sylhet are still waiting in Libya, where Bangladeshis cannot go legally since 2014, for migration to Italy, crossing the Mediterranean. Of them, around 150 people are said to be from Beanibazar, who reached Libya via several countries. Just to reach Libya, each of them had paid TK 6-7 lakhs to the traffickers already.
Abani Shankar Kar said those who lured them into such danger with the promise of a luxurious life won’t be spared, and law enforcers stand ready to take the necessary action if a case is filed.
In the last six months, more than 300 youths left Beanibazar hoping to migrate to Italy, France, Spain, Portugal using Libya and Turkey as transit points. Many of their fates remain unknown.
Nahid, one of those who survived the hazardous journey to Italy but is now back in Bangladesh, shared his experience of the voyage through the Mediterranean.
“A boat with 80 people, much more than its capacity, is floating on the stormy ocean, rollicking in the waves. Sharks are spotted around the boat. If you fall off the boat, they will pounce. The 80 souls are desperate to reach Europe, beckoning like a paradise where their fates will change. But in that moment, a hellish death is closer to them.”