Dhaka Tribune hosted a webinar organized by USAID on Saturday 

The devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the global economy may fuel human trafficking in the years to come, speakers at a webinar have said.

The pandemic is driving more people into poverty and there is a high possibility that human traffickers will take advantage of people who grow desperate, they added.

The webinar, titled “Trafficking in persons,” was organized by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bangladesh and hosted by Dhaka Tribune on Saturday. 

Keynote speaker Dr Syeda Rozana Rashid, professor at the department of international relations of Dhaka University, said: “The pandemic has made people more vulnerable. People will look for opportunities to get out of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic by migrating to a different country.” 

She added that human traffickers may take advantage of poverty-stricken people who try to migrate.  

Journalist Julfikar Ali Manik said several low level law enforcement officials are involved in trafficking networks and they need to be identified.

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) Additional SP (Organized Crime) Akteruzzaman said laws to prevent human trafficking in the country are adequete but they are not being implemented properly.

“Prosecution of a human trafficker is heavily based on investigation. Investigating this kind of case is a major challenge for law enforcement agencies because, sometimes, there is not enough evidence,” he added. 

The CID official also said it is difficult for the police to collect evidence from foreign countries to present to the court.  

“We need a combined effort, otherwise we cannot stop this. Destination countries need to be cooperative for successful prosecution,” he said. 

He added that stakeholders need to handle trafficking victims, particularly male victims, carefully because victims often become traffickers to recover economic losses.

HM Nazrul Islam, program team leader of the Bangladesh Counter Trafficking In Persons program of Winrock  International, said prevention is not the only way to deal with human trafficking as many victims are at risk of revictimization. 

“Rescuing a trafficked victim is not enough. If we cannot rehabilitate them, there is a high possibility that they will become a victim again,” he said. 

Habiba Akter, team leader of Human Rights and Rule of Law Office of Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, of USAID Bangladesh, said USAID has sheltered over 3,000 human trafficking survivors in shelter homes supported by this organization over the past six and a half years.  

Dr Imtiaz Ahmed, professor at the Department of International Relations of Dhaka University, said one of the major problems in forming better laws and policies regarding this issue is that there is not enough data about human trafficking in Bangladesh.

“There is no doubt that conflict is a push factor for human trafficking, however, climate change is also one of the key push factors in Bangladesh,” he said.

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