The ongoing pandemic restrictions to control mobility and movements have had diverse impacts on people’s vulnerability to human trafficking, including migrants from and to Bangladesh.
Speakers made the remark during a webinar on the World Day against Trafficking in Persons 2021 on Wednesday with the theme of the day "Victims’ Voices Lead the Way".
The webinar shared the key messages from survivors of human trafficking and highlighted the risks faced by an estimated 700,000 Bangladeshis who choose to migrate abroad every year.
Vulnerable migrants are often the target of traffickers and find themselves in situations that can result in debt bondage, forced labour, sexual exploitation, forced marriages and other forms of modern slavery, they added.
It is well documented that Bangladesh is a source, transit, and destination country for men, women, and child victims of human trafficking, speakers continued.
The government, however, has taken active steps to counter human trafficking by including formulating policies and strengthening task forces.
Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen, said, "Trafficking in persons is a serious human rights violation. The government has a zero tolerance policy on this and is actively taking steps to fight this horrific crime. The fight against trafficking and smuggling of migrants requires multi-stakeholder engagement."
According to Mia Seppo, UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, "The COVID-19 is presenting new challenges to the protection of migrants, and it is widely known that the pandemic impacts men, women, and children, including adolescents, differently. To combat the scourge of trafficking in persons, all stakeholders must join hands and work together."
IOM Chief of Mission in Bangladesh Giorgi Gigauri said, "Trafficking is a crime which puts migrant workers at risk in terms of physical and mental abuse, harassment, forced labour, forced and illegal marriages, illegal trade, and losing lives.”
The government at all levels, development partners, law enforcement entities, civil society, the private sector, and all other relevant actors must make a concerted effort to take action to stamp it out, he added.
Siobhan Mullally, UN special rapporteur on Trafficking in Persons, in her address noted, “The impact of COVID- 19 increases risks of trafficking in persons. We need to address the increasing risks of child trafficking in order to combat online exploitation, exploitation of migrant workers and the particular risks of sexual exploitation.”
The webinar was organised by the Counter-Trafficking in Persons Technical Working Group under the Bangladesh United Nations Network on Migration.