Cox’s Bazar administration, IOM reaffirm collaboration to tackle human trafficking

Cox’s Bazar district administration and IOM on Thursday reaffirmed their continued collaboration to counter human trafficking in the coastal district currently hosting over a million forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.

According to IOM data, between September 2017 and June this year, 655 victims of trafficking (45 percent Rohingya and 55 percent local Bangladeshis) were identified and assisted by IOM and its partners in Cox’s Bazar.

Activities have been adapted to enhance safety precautions during COVID-19.

Guided by the National Plan of Action (2018–2020), the primary focus will be on awareness raising, capacity building of local government and organisations, providing better protection for victims of trafficking and continued leadership by the District Counter Trafficking Committees (CTCs), said a joint statement.

Marking the World Day Against Human Trafficking, Md Kamal Hossain, Deputy Commissioner of Cox’s Bazar, also the Chairperson of the District Counter Trafficking Committee; ABM Masud Hossain, the district’s police chief, Manuel Marques Pereira, Deputy Chief of Mission, IOM Bangladesh; presented the Counter Trafficking activities update at a programme in the district.

Md Shahajan Ali, Additional District Magistrate of Cox’s Bazar, chaired the programme.

They said they would also like to honour first responders or front line workers: police with law enforcement agencies, public representatives, local leaders, social workers, health professionals, humanitarians and many others who save lives and work endlessly to assist victims of trafficking throughout this particularly difficult time caused by the pandemic.

Together, they said, they can #EndHumanTrafficking through continued cooperation between the District Administration, the CTCs, law enforcement, Judiciary, IOM, the humanitarian community and other key stakeholders to prevent vulnerable individuals from being exploited, protect victims of trafficking, work towards implementing the National Plan of Action and achieve the plan’s envisioned path to the Sustainable Development Goals.

In September last year, the government of Bangladesh (GOB) ratified the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, (UN Trafficking Protocol) supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.

The government’s strong and continued commitment to address human trafficking was recognised in the 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report published in June, when it was upgraded to Tier 2 by the United States Department of State, said the joint statement.

Human trafficking has been recognised as a serious gross violation of human rights and a heinous crime against humanity men, women, boys, and girls who aspire and dream for opportunities are often tricked or coerced to work in exploitative situations such as forced labour, domestic servitude or sexual exploitation, with dire consequences to their self-esteem and dignity.

Human trafficking has been acknowledged to occur before, during and as a consequence of disasters and other humanitarian crises, IOM said.

Cox’s Bazar district is prone to such disasters, and it is temporarily hosting more than one million Rohingya who fled violence from Myanmar.

The health crisis caused by COVID-19 has further created new challenges.

In addition, the health crisis has affected the district’s response to human trafficking, shifting priorities to support COVID-19 prevention and containment measures.

This shift may increase the risk of human trafficking to vulnerable communities while making it more difficult for key stakeholders to identify and assist victims and for authorities to investigate the crime according to the national law, IOM said.

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The World Day against Human Trafficking is being observed on Thursday marking the 20-year anniversary of the UN Trafficking Protocol.