HomeBangladeshThe Balkan Trap: A Nightmare for Bangladeshi Migrant Workers

The Balkan Trap: A Nightmare for Bangladeshi Migrant Workers

When the economic crisis in Italy began, due to the Corona outbreak, the Italian government announced to welcome a large number of illegal immigrants to work in the country conditionally. As a result, lots of Bangladeshis got the work permit in that country. But the announcement, that it would be counterproductive for the EU, may not have been predicted it that time. Because it has created a new opportunity for human-traffickers & obviously for those immigrants whose final destination is Italy & other EU countries. Among them, there are also a large number of Bangladeshi.

Initially, there are few reports of people crossing the Mediterranean to Italy, but now the influx of large numbers of illegal immigrants in the Balkans is making the EU think anew. Besides, the death of Bangladeshis for reaching in Europe is not new news now. Since 2015, the international media has been regularly propagating on the horrific human business & the deaths of migrants. World media recently reported that Balkans have turned to a new route for human trafficking.

Recently Reuters & AP has published that more than 600 illegal migrants are detained  in Balkan countries including Bangladeshis. Reuters posted a picture on their website showing many Bangladeshis are stuck in Bosnian jungle Valika Kladusa. But there is no data of exactly how many Bangladeshi have been detained there. Those migrants informed that human-traffickers smuggle them through Croatia to Bosnia or Slovenia. From there, smugglers try to smuggle migrants across the Adriatic Sea to wealthy European countries, including Italy. European diplomats say, Bangladeshi migrants, like citizens of other countries, have been trying to enter Italy for many years. And Bosnia-Croatia & Slovenia-Croatia borders have become the alternative routes for trafficking.

Dutch & Austrian diplomatic sources clarify in a report that human trafficking has become more difficult via the Mediterranean Sea, so traffickers have been using Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia border, as the Balkan route. Bosnia, Austria & Interpol also assure it. European diplomats also point  out that in the Balkans, such as Libya, ransom, torture & other crimes are taking place. They are now pretty sure that human trafficking network has now widened from Libya to far Eastern Europe. And their main destinations are Italy, Spain, France, Germany, etc. wealthy European countries.

However, IOM had been directing 7 migrant camps in the Bosnia-Croatia border. But Bosnian & Croatian authorities have demolished them. That’s why migrants are moving from here & there in Balkan region. But neither the EU nor the IOM could say exactly how many people are detained, how many Bangladeshis among them, isn’t yet known. However, the UNHCR published a report in January 2020. The report lists the top 10 countries for people arriving in Europe illegally. Bangladesh stands at 4th position on that list. In the first eight months of  2020, more than 3500 Bangladeshis reached Europe via the Mediterranean & Eastern European borders. Bosnian authority informs that more than 16,000 migrants arrived in Bosnia in the last two years. Among them, more 1500 are Bangladeshis. Pakistani, Algerian, Moroccan citizens are also there.

Those Balkan countries also inform that the number of illegal immigrants detained in their countries is increasing day by day. Slovenian town Ilinska Bistrica’s mayor Emil Rojc ensured that in last 8 months, they detained more than 10,000 illegal immigrants at the Croatia-Slovenia border. Most of them are very keen to arrive in Italy.

Authorities of Balkan countries also proclaim that the immigrants are so much desperate to arrive in Europe’s wealthy countries. Azur Sljivic, a Bosnian border guard officer, said the immigrants are smuggled to Bosnia in rubber boats over the Drina River. Many of them drown under the river because of the Drina River’s unpredictable flow & this river is full of whirlpool (Source: Reuters).

Besides, the EU is set to make more drastic changes to its immigration policy, with the winter looming. So before that policy is enacted, immigrants become desperate to enter in Italy & other western countries. But every time they are detained at the Balkans border. Even a Bangladeshi immigrant said to Reuters that he tried to get access in Croatia for 3 times for using the route as a road to Italy, but failed. They’re still trying to arrive in Italy at any cost. That young guy also added that most of the migrants are young.

Here, questions may arise as to why they are desperate in going to Italy, why they are taking life-risks to enter EU countries. In 2018, World Economic Forum published a survey in which it found that 62% of young people in South Asia, including Bangladesh, want to leave their countries for a better life & career development. Most of them leave their house for economic purposes. They don’t think that they have a future in their own countries. Moreover, the dream of Bangladeshis to go abroad is terrible. And most of them think that Italy is peaceful & suitable for immigrants. Besides, they also think that Italy’s socio-economic situation is better than the Balkan countries, as Balkan states political & economic situation is in trouble. They also think that Italy is more flexible for immigrants than other European countries like France, UK, Germany or the Netherlands.

We should also look at an important point that why they have opted for the Balkan route instead of the Mediterranean route. To know the answer, we have to go back to May. Last May, 26 Bangladeshis we’re brutally murdered by brokers as they were unable to pay money to the brokers. Moreover, the death toll of migrants drowning in the sea is not less. That’s why they have chosen the Balkans route. Migrants claim that at first, the human brokers took them to the UAE. From there, they were flown to Turkey (Turkey is used as the ‘core’ route between Asia & Europe). From there, they want to enter Italy by land via Bulgaria, Serbia, Bosnia, Slovenia, and Croatia. Earlier, migrants entered Libya via Turkey through planes. We know that Libya has been in turmoil since the fall of Gaddafi. Libya is actually ruled by two political powers. One is General National Congress (GNC) & another is Khalid Haftar’s militia group. The latter is directly involved in human trafficking. Moreover, no passport or visa is required to reach Libya via Turkey. But before moving to Europe, immigrants were subjected to horrific outrages. They were severely beaten for money. Besides, the number of boat sinks while crossing the Mediterranean Sea isn’t less. That’s why they have opted for the Balkans route to enter Western Europe. But bad luck! They are getting into trouble now. Brokers continue to be tortured as usual for money. Now police forces in Balkan countries are torturing them to prevent from crossing the border. But illegal immigrants have been trying to reach in Western European countries. At any cost, they want to go to Europe. Because Europe is ‘El Dorado’ for them.

Needless to say, the problem of human trafficking is going to be long-term. First, the Balkan countries don’t have much diplomatic relations with Bangladesh. Due to which, there are enough doubts about the security of those Bangladeshi migrants.

Also, many travel agencies are currently involved in the ‘broker’ cycle. They manipulate people to go to European countries illegally. So it has become urgent to bring them under law.

The biggest challenge is that many of these young guys might be inspired by those illegal migrants & created the morality of going to Europe illegally. Therefore, it has become urgent to motivate people to go abroad legally & safely.

We must keep in mind that the reputation of Bangladesh is also involved here. The image of the country is being tarnished due to illegal migration.

According to Eurostat, the European Commission’s Statistics Office, affirms that from 2006 to 2016, more than 1 lakh Bangladeshis entered European countries illegally. Since 2015, the EU has been pressurizing Bangladesh to take back illegal Bangladeshi immigrants. This is obviously uncomfortable for an independent country.

So we have to be diplomatic with the EU in this regard. Otherwise, we’ll lose one of our most important allies.

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