Bangladesh has for the first time shared details of suspected human traffickers with Interpol, a police official said on Tuesday, as it seeks to stop the kidnapping and killing of migrants.
Minto Mia became the first Bangladeshi trafficker to feature on the international police agency’s Red Notice list of wanted fugitives this week, described as deceiving jobseekers and “wrongfully confining and killing” people over ransom demands.
He is the first of six traffickers that the country has asked Interpol to add to the list of about 7,000 people globally that member states’ law enforcement agencies want to locate and arrest, Special Superintendent of Bangladesh Police Syeda Zannat Ara said.
“These are traffickers who trick people from Bangladesh by taking money from them with promises of jobs abroad. They then keep them hostage in Libya and torture them for more money,” she said. “Putting their details on Interpol will restrict their movement because they will be wanted no matter which country they go to.”
More than 70 Bangladeshis are on Interpol’s Red Notice list, which seeks the provisional arrest of fugitives, for prosecution or to serve a sentence, on charges that include murder, use of counterfeit money and distribution of pornography.
Bangladesh is vulnerable to trafficking as it is one of the world’s largest exporters of laborers, with about 700,000 workers every year going overseas to seek jobs.
It relies heavily on the remittances they send home.
The South Asian nation’s migrants pay some of the highest recruitment fees in the world because the system depends mainly on unlicensed brokers in rural areas, which campaigners say leads to exploitation and trafficking.
Bangladesh has stepped up its anti-trafficking efforts by setting up tribunals to handle a backlog of thousands of cases, but conviction rates remain low, this year’s Trafficking in Persons Report by the US Department of State said.
In what local police described as the “strongest operation” against traffickers in recent times, at least 50 people were in June arrested in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, for extorting money from people on false promises of jobs overseas.
The arrests were made after 24 Bangladeshi migrants were in May abducted and killed in Libya, and police said that they included a ringleader who had over a decade sent about 400 people to Libya illegally.
Recognizing the need for stronger international cooperation, Bangladesh police decided to issue the Red Notices to Interpol, Ara said, adding that they would add the profiles of “trafficking kingpins” from other countries soon.
“I think reaching out to Interpol is a praiseworthy initiative,” said Ashraful Islam, a labor counselor at the Bangladesh embassy in Libya.
“Hopefully this will help arrest the main culprits and prevent Bangladeshis from being trafficked here,” he said. “We will have to wait and see how effective this move will be.”
Interpol could not be reached immediately for a comment.
The International Organization for Migration, a UN agency, estimates that there are at least 20,000 Bangladeshi migrants in Libya — considered a gateway to Europe — accounting for about 3 percent of the migrant population.
Hasan, who returned to Bangladesh from Libya in 2018 after being held by traffickers for three months, lauded the police’s decision to use Interpol to nab traffickers.
“If the police wants, I will help them catch the traffickers because I know the pain,” said the 42-year-old, who declined to give his full name. “It has been two years, and I am yet to recover the money I lost.”
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