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The ramifications of illegal immigration

  • Published at 12:02 am June 2nd, 2019
Boat capsize
File photo of A risk not worth taking Photo: REUTERS

Higher education may be a solution to the problem

Over the last two years, the world has witnessed the tragic deaths of thousands of people from different countries drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, the Bay of Bengal, and the Indian Ocean, while trying to enter Europe, or Thailand, or Malaysia. The latest such incident off the coast of Tunisia in North Africa has drawn the particular attention of Bangladesh. Out of the nearly 60 people missing, 37 were of Bangladeshi origin. 

It has subsequently been found that many of them were relatives who had paid large sums of money to gangs involved in human trafficking, working out of Bangladesh. Some of the perpetrators of such criminal activity have been identified, and some taken into custody by the law enforcement authorities. 

Investigation over the past few days has also revealed how these same criminal groups have been associated in similar nefarious activities in the context of trying to illicitly traffic Rohingya families into Thailand and Malaysia.

Illegal immigration may be described as a dynamics whereby there is a migration of people into a country in violation of the immigration laws of that country or the continued residence of people without the legal right to live in that country.

The connotation of the term “illegal immigrant” has, however, become the subject of debate in the media. Campaigns have originated in the US where arguments are being made that the act of immigrating illegally does not make the people themselves illegal, but rather they are “people who have immigrated illegally.”

In the US, a “Drop the I-Word” campaign was launched in 2010, advocating for the use of terms such as undocumented immigrants or unauthorized immigrants when referring to the foreign nationals who reside in a country illegally.

Illegal immigration generally takes place from poorer to richer countries with greater economic opportunities. Such a scenario related to illegal residence in another country creates the risk of being detained and deported. 

In rare cases, asylum seekers who have been denied asylum may sometimes get a temporary residence permit if the home country refuses to receive the person. This situation arises out of the principle of non-refoulement which exists within the ambit of the International Refugee Convention.

Socio-economists have been trying to identify the reasons for illegal immigration. They have concluded that the following are the most likely causes for such activity:

Trade liberalization

In recent years, developing countries have been pursuing the benefits of globalization by adopting measures to liberalize trade. 

However, the rapid opening of domestic markets is also leading to the displacement of large numbers of agricultural or unskilled workers. This is persuading large numbers to seek employment and a higher quality of life by illegal immigration.


It needs to be remembered that undocumented immigrants are generally not impoverished by standards of their home countries. They are comparatively not members of the middle class but they are slightly better off, as they are able to generate funds for succeeding in their efforts associated with illegal migration. It needs to be noted here that sometimes natural disasters or over-population also act as an important factor in the case of least developed countries.

This has become a significant natural factor. Many undocumented immigrants naturally seek to live with loved ones, such as a spouse or other family members.

Having family who has immigrated or being from a community with many immigrants gradually becomes a suitable predictor of one’s choice to immigrate, rather than continuing to live through the receipt of remittances from abroad.  

Wars, violence, and abuse of human rights 

These three factors mentioned above quite understandably have assumed special significance within the matrix of unauthorized arrival and illegal entry into another country and then seeking asylum. 

Repression then becomes the fundamental cause. Somebody who flees such a situation is not considered as an undocumented immigrant. This has become particularly applicable in the case of Bangladesh, who has been hosting more than a million Rohingya Muslim refugees from the Rakhine State in Myanmar. 

We are looking after their human rights needs but also at the same time trying to repatriate them back to their own country.

It would be pertinent at this point to note that the whole process linked with human trafficking and illegal migration has, over the past few years, assumed dangerous proportions due to certain criminal acts that have developed within this paradigm.

In some regions, people that are en route to their destination country are sometimes kidnapped, for ransom. In some instances, they are also tortured, raped, and killed if the requested ransom does not arrive. 

Some women are, at times, forced into sexual slavery to avoid charges of illegal immigration.

There is also another aspect which gradually creates frustration and anger, and sometimes even leads to criminal acts on the part of persons who are undocumented and have entered illegally. 

They become objects of exploitation by employers who have employed them. Quite often, because of their illegal status, these workers are unable to complain to the relevant authorities about not being paid or being underpaid or having to work in unsafe conditions.

There is also another misuse of the legal process that is undertaken by many who have entered Europe, Australia, or North America illegally. This involves entering into sham marriages where the marriage is contracted into for purely immigration advantage by a couple who are not in a genuine relationship. The common reason for sham marriages is to gain immigration residency and work rights for one or both of the spouses, or for other benefits.

Sociologists and economists who have been examining the reasons for this upturn of human trafficking in the case of Bangladesh have made some important observations. They have pointed out that despite moving forward economically, Bangladesh, compared to Sri Lanka and the Philippines, continues to suffer from a lack of higher education in skilled vocational training. 

They have also underlined the need for our youth labour force to learn foreign languages of countries where they need semi-skilled and skilled labour. They have stressed on the need of our younger people seeking jobs abroad learning English, Arabic, French, German, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese. 

Skill training in health care, pharmaceutical and leather industries, digital training pertaining to business management, and areas related to interior design and interior architecture could make the difference. If we can achieve this, other countries will be likely to send recruiting teams to Bangladesh instead of our young men falling victims to human traffickers. 

Muhammad Zamir, a former ambassador, is an analyst specialized in foreign affairs, right to information, and good governance. He can be reached at muhammad[email protected]