DHAKA - Bangladeshi
border guards are painting warnings on the homes of suspected
human and drug traffickers in eastern villages in a bid to curb
to trafficking to India, an official said on Friday.
Houses in villages near the border with northeast India have
been marked in red paint with phrases such as "this is a human
trafficker's house", according to a senior border guard.
Thousands of Bangladeshis are trafficked to India each year
- many of whom are sold into prostitution or domestic servitude
- anti-slavery activists say, although official data is lacking.
About 1,800 victims have returned from India with assistance
from the Bangladeshi government since 2011, yet Border Guard
Bangladesh regional commander Golam Kabir said the country was
struggling to secure justice against human traffickers.
"We arrested many of these (human) trafficking brokers more
than once and there are multiple cases filed against them,"
Kabir told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
"But they still get bail and get involved in the business
again. We hope our strategy (of painting homes) works well to
counter this ... there needs to be pressure built against them."
Bangladesh has been on a U.S. State Department watchlist for
the past three years over its record on trafficking, putting it
at risk of a downgrade that would trigger economic sanctions.
The government has said it is working to resolve issues
raised in the annual U.S. Trafficking in Persons report - from a
failure to tackle illegal recruitment agents to a lack of probes
into potential trafficking crimes against Rohingya refugees.
Yet the tactic of using red paint to denounce suspected
traffickers is improper and violates the principle of innocent
until proven guilty, said Tajul Islam, a Supreme Court lawyer.
"In addition to this, think of the family members of the
broker," said Islam, who is also an adviser for the charity
Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust. "They have been labelled as
well. It will have a bad impact on them."
Anti-trafficking advocates and researchers were divided over
the approach; some questioned the impact of castigating suspects
who were unlikely to be the ringleaders of trafficking networks,
while others said it was necessary in order to spread a message.
"We need to create social pressure since the trafficking
cases are likely to run for a long time," said Shakirul Islam,
chairman of migrant rights group Ovibashi Karmi Unnayan Program.
Nationwide, more than 4,000 cases are awaiting trial under a
2012 law that criminalized trafficking, according to police
records, and only about 30 people have been convicted so far.
"The way I see it, I know the people in the villages ... who
are involved in trafficking because they have been doing it for
a long time," Islam added. "People need to know who they are."