US Trafficking in Persons report

Bangladesh govt lacks minimum standards to stop trafficking

Bangladesh govt lacks minimum standards to stop trafficking

The Government of Bangladesh does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so, according to an annual US State Department report.

This was stated in the US Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report 2024 launched Monday evening (Dhaka time) by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The report has put Bangladesh in Tier 2.

The report mentions that the government does not meet minimum standards in several key areas. The government has not taken adequate steps to address internal trafficking crimes or official complicity, both of which remain pervasive, and the authorities continue to conflate human trafficking with migrant smuggling. 

The report also alleges that the government has not sufficiently investigated and prosecuted trafficking cases, especially involving the Rohingyas, and victim protection efforts have remained insufficient while shelters, largely concentrated in Dhaka, lack specialised services for trafficking victims and officials often lack a victim-centred, trauma-informed approach in interacting with trafficking survivors.

The report particularly mentions that a lack of sustained political will has stymied efforts to reform abusive sectors and adequately address trafficking compared with the scale of the problem. Besides, the government has failed to acknowledge official complicity in human trafficking. In earlier cases involving many Rohingyas, investigations found the complicity of officials of various public agencies, including the Election Commission, the passport office and the local administration. What also appears to have undercut the government’s overall anti-trafficking efforts, weakened deterrence and created security and safety concerns for victims is leniency to traffickers, most of whom, when prosecuted, are awarded fines rather than jail time. 

The report specifically mentions that courts have failed to investigate or prosecute suspected traffickers with political ties. While poverty is the biggest reason for trafficking in persons as the poor are more vulnerable to trafficking, official complicity and fraudulent practices pervasive in recruitment agencies and a lack of oversight are blamed for unabated incidents. What is also concerning is the government’s underplaying of internal human trafficking. The government tends to be disproportionately focused on international labour trafficking and has dedicated less attention to internal trafficking, including bonded labour, forced domestic labour, sex trafficking and the worst forms of child labour.

The government must, therefore, shore up the issues to effectively eliminate trafficking in persons, which constitutes a human rights violation, in national interests. The government must put a strong oversight mechanism in place and be stringent against official complicity and fraudulent practices of recruitment agencies. The authorities must also stop internal trafficking and step up victim support programmes.