Bangladesh blacklisted for human trafficking

Faces possible US sanctions if records not improved by Oct Staff Correspondent, with AFP The US on Monday blacklisted Bangladesh among 10 nations for failing to adequately fight international sex trafficking, opening the way for possible sanctions.

The list can lead to cutoffs in non-humanitarian and non-trade-related US aid, the US Department of State said. Affected aid could include military, educational and cultural assistance. It singled out Bangladesh alongside other new entrants Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Guyana, Sierra Leone and Venezuela for not doing enough to combat trafficking and will be subjected to sanctions unless they demonstrably improve their records by October.

Bangladesh has moved from "Tier 2" to "Tier 3" because it failed to make significant efforts to prosecute traffickers and address the complicity of government officials in trafficking, the State Department report explains. "Tier 3" is a grouping of countries that are not making "significant efforts" to combat the trafficking of human beings, particularly of women and children

Nations deemed to be complying with US and international efforts to fight trafficking are placed in "Tier 1," while those making "significant efforts" are placed in "Tier 2." Officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when reached last night, would not comment on the inclusion of Bangladesh in the list before running through the State Department report.

Perennial US sanctions targets Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea and Sudan are the other countries to have been put on the list. However, the State Department removed from the list Nato allies Greece and Turkey and nine other countries.

Women and children trafficking

The State Department in its report observed that Bangladesh is a country of origin and transit for women and children trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, involuntary domestic servitude, and debt bondage. An estimated 10-20,000 women and girls are trafficked annually to India, Pakistan, Bahrain, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). A small number of women and girls are trafficked through Bangladesh from Burma to India.

Police officials are known to facilitate trafficking

Bangladeshi boys are also trafficked into the UAE and Qatar and forced to work as camel jockeys and beggars. Women and children from rural areas in Bangladesh are trafficked to urban centers for commercial sexual exploitation and domestic work. The Bangladesh government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking and is not making significant efforts to do so.

Overall, the government's anti-trafficking efforts stagnated although there was progress in the area of building public awareness and prevention. Public corruption is rampant, although the government did pass legislation in February 2004 to create an Anti-Corruption Commission to investigate and prosecute cases of all types of corruption. Police officials are known to facilitate trafficking of women and children, though none has ever been charged or arrested. Bangladesh should take greater steps to address government corruption and prosecute officials who are involved in trafficking.

The Bangladeshi government works in close cooperation with the various NGOs fighting trafficking. Although the government faces significant resource constraints, it receives considerable international assistance, some of which could be used to attack corruption in the police and judiciary, and some of which is already being used to provide social services for trafficking victims. The government has failed to make a priority of protecting trafficking victims or prosecuting their exploiters

(Daily Star, June 16, 2004).

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