3 alleged human trafficking syndicate members held

Dhaka, May 17 – The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested three members a human trafficking syndicate masquerading as “travel agents” from different places in Dhaka.
The law enforcers have launched a country-wide crackdown on human traffickers after dozens of Bangladeshis drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe.
About 60 people died last week when a boat full of would-be migrants capsized while trying to cross from Libya to Italy. Such desperate attempts by unemployed Bangladeshis to find work abroad have drawn global attention.
These three members of a human trafficking syndicate involved with the boat capsize incident in the Mediterranean Sea on May 9 have arrested from different places of the capital on Thursday (16 May) night, RAB says.
The arrestees are Abdur Razzak Bhuiyan (34), Akkach Matubbar (39), and Anamul Haque Talukdar (46), RAB’s Legal and Media Wing Director Mufti Mahmud Khan said while briefing journalists RAB Media Center in city’s Karwan Bazar area.
The three were arrested at the Abdullahpur, Khilkhet, and Airport Road areas of Dhaka.
Mufti Mahmud Khan said, “Two cases have been filed—at Naria police station of Shariatpur and Bishwanath police station of Sylhet—concerning the boat capsize incident.”
RAB said the syndicate works in three stages. First, they target poor people who want to go abroad to make a better living. They convince the people to give them money, in instalments.
Each person pays around Tk 700,000 to 800,000. The passports and visas are prepared, then tickets are purchased.
The syndicate initially collects Tk 450,000-Tk500,000 from each person, and the migrants are sent to Libya first.
The rest of the money is collected, and the people are sent to Europe from Libya. “At each stage, this syndicate has their own people,” Mufti Mahmud Khan added.
The RAB official said that according to the arrestees, members of this group use several routes in order to send people from Bangladesh to Libya. Depending on the convenience of the routes, they sometimes change or set new routes. Recently, they have been using three routes to send people to Libya.
Arrestees Enamul and Razzak are members of same human trafficking syndicate said RAB media director.
“Enamul has a travel agency in Sylhet’s Zindabazar named Eyahiya overseas. He (Enamul) has been doing this for 10-12 years. Razzak worked there as a broker. Another arrestee, Akkas, worked as a broker for another agency,” Mufti Mahmud Khan said.
After primary interrogation, RAB found that members of these syndicates give people false assurances of employment abroad.
“This group illegally sends people to Europe with the help of a foreign ring,” RAB’s Legal and Media wing director said.
Further details about him will not be made public as a drive to nab the rest members of Akkas’s syndicate is on.
“We have come to know that the syndicates usually take around Tk 8 to Tk 9 lakh from the fortune seekers and tried to send them to Europe through using three routes,” he said.
The suspected traffickers either take the fortune seekers to Istanbul from Bangladesh first on roadway and then take them to Libya and send them to Europe via Tunisia. Alternatively, they take the illegal migrants to India and then send them to Sri Lanka and Istanbul and later send them to Europe through Libya.
In addition, the syndicate members take Bangladeshi people to Dubai first on air way and send them Amman and Benghazi and Europe via Libya, the Rab official said quoting the arrestees.
They have used the second route for the last trip that met the tragic end in the Mediterranean Sea on May 9, he said.
They also forced the fortune seekers to engage in different types of jobs in Libya to meet their living and food demands.
Since the establishment of RAB, the elite force has conducted 209 operations and arrested 609 people for illegal transit or trafficking.
RAB has rescued 814 victims, including 704 men and 110 women. On May 9, two boats—one carrying 50, and another 75, people—set out simultaneously from Zouara, Libya. One possibly reached Italy, while the other capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, near Zarzis, Tunisia.
Of the 75 migrants on board, 54 were Bangladeshis, and 40 of them are feared dead.
Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said of the 54 Bangladeshi migrants onboard, 14 were rescued.
The Foreign Ministry, on Wednesday, released a list of 39 Bangladeshis who went missing in the incident.
Survivors told the Red Crescent that the tragedy unfolded after some 75 people who had left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast late Thursday on a large boat were transferred to a smaller one that sank off Tunisia, reports AFP from Tunis.
The boat sank 65 km off the coast of Sfax, south of the capital Tunis. Fishing boats rescued 16 people and brought them to shore in Zarzis, according to the Red Crescent.
According to survivors, the Italy-bound boat had on board only men, including 51 Bangladeshis, three Egyptians, several Moroccans, Chadians and other Africans.
Fourteen Bangladeshis, including a minor, were among the survivors, said the Red Crescent. –Staff Reporter