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Pandemic may fuel human trafficking for years

  • Published at 03:26 am February 25th, 2021
Representational image Bigstock

The pandemic is driving more people into poverty and there is a high possibility that human traffickers will take advantage of people who grow desperate

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on January 30 organized a webinar on "Trafficking in persons." Dhaka Tribune hosted the discussions, which focused on the link between the Covid-19 pandemic and human trafficking.

The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy may fuel human trafficking in the years to come, speakers at the webinar said.

The pandemic is driving more people into poverty and there is a high possibility that human traffickers will take advantage of people who grow desperate. As a result, Bangladesh needs to gather specific data on human trafficking to make better policies and laws against it.

Dr Syeda Rozana Rashid, professor at the department of international relations of Dhaka University

The pandemic has made people more vulnerable. People will look for opportunities to get out of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic by migrating to different countries. Human traffickers may take advantage of poverty-stricken people who try to migrate. 

Drug smuggling is related to human trafficking and therefore it is a national security issue as well. If we cannot prevent human trafficking, it will have a negative impact on our national image. Many countries might put an embargo on foreign aid and investment in Bangladesh if human trafficking intensifies in Bangladesh. 

It is a good sign that Bangladesh has been upgraded to tier-2 but we need to do much better than that.  Civil society organizations should come forward to build awareness of human trafficking.  Increasing social resilience is one of the main weapons to combat human trafficking in Bangladesh. 

Akteruzzaman, additional SP (Organized Crime) of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) 

The prosecution of a human trafficker is heavily based on the investigation. Investigating this kind of case is a major challenge for law enforcement agencies because, sometimes, there is not enough evidence.

Laws to prevent human trafficking in the country are adequate but they are not being implemented properly. It is difficult for the police to collect evidence from foreign countries to present to the court. We need a combined effort, otherwise, we cannot stop this. 

Destination countries need to be cooperative for successful prosecution. Also, stakeholders need to handle trafficking victims, particularly male victims, carefully because victims often become traffickers to recover economic losses. Many women pay brokers a significant amount of money to migrate to a different country and get a decent job but end up becoming trafficking victims. In most cases filed in connection with human trafficking, the victim is a woman.  

Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, professor at the department of international relations of Dhaka University

One of the major problems when forming better laws and policies regarding this issue is that there is not enough data about human trafficking in Bangladesh. There is no doubt that conflict is a push factor for human trafficking, however, climate change is also one of the key push factors in Bangladesh. We need robust data to make good policies, however, Bangladesh is not really doing well in this. 

Discussants address a webinar organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on January 30 on 'Trafficking in persons' | Courtesy

The methodology of research on human trafficking needs a shift. Numbers and statistics are important, but we need more case studies on human trafficking victims.  

Habiba Akter, team leader of Human Rights and Rule of Law Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, USAID Bangladesh

USAID has sheltered over 3,000 human trafficking survivors in shelter homes supported by organizations over the past six and a half years. We worked in collaboration with the Home Ministry to design a five-year national plan of action against human trafficking. This plan is linked to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well. 

The prevalence of human trafficking is going to intensify due to the global health crisis. We are working to take some initiative to help migrant workers who returned home due to the Covid-19 crisis. Lack of data is one of the obstacles when mapping out a plan or taking up new projects against human trafficking. We have good laws, but implementing the laws is the real challenge. 

Julfikar Ali Manik, journalist

Several low-level law enforcement officials are involved in trafficking networks and they need to be identified. These officials and human traffickers often work in a nexus. It will be very difficult to prevent or decrease human trafficking cases if we cannot identify these people and bring them to book. 

Also, people who are caught by law enforcement agencies are not really the masterminds. The Masterminds of human trafficking networks are never really caught. The masterminds think they can get away with their crime and this is the reason preventing human trafficking in Bangladesh is difficult.  

Another concern that needs immediate attention is that too many people have been pushed into poverty in this pandemic. They will want a way out of poverty and traffickers will surely take advantage of them.

HM Nazrul Islam, program team leader of the Bangladesh Counter Trafficking In Persons program of Winrock International

Prevention is not the only way to deal with human trafficking, as many victims are at risk of revictimization. Rescuing a trafficking victim is not enough. If we cannot rehabilitate them, there is a high possibility that they will become a victim again. 

Our organization has trained around 3,000 people. These training programs help identify the people who are at risk of being trafficked.  We formed a volunteer group of young people to build awareness of human trafficking in their locality. We also formed another volunteer group with human trafficking survivors. A total of 170 survivors work in this group to help trafficking victims to get back to normal life. 

These two different groups have been able to build awareness of human trafficking among 2,80,000 people in their locality. In many cases, people wanted to migrate to another country for a better livelihood but ended up being trafficked. Building awareness would help these people make an informed decision. 


● Rehabilitate trafficking victims to get them back to normal life

● Provide training for trafficking victims so that they do not become traffickers to cope with financial losses

● Build social resilience to prevent human trafficking

● Implement laws to bring the traffickers, including masterminds, to book 

● Decrease the migration costs 

● Bangladeshi embassies in foreign countries should cooperate if law enforcement agencies need support. 

● Collect more data on human trafficking to make informed decisions on policies  

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