Bangladesh still on tier 2 in human trafficking: US State Department

Bangladesh still remains at "Tier 2" in the US State Department's Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report for the third year, as the government does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking.

However, the report, titled "2022 Trafficking in Persons Report" praised the government, noting that Bangladesh is making significant efforts.

"The government demonstrated overall increasing efforts compared to the previous reporting period, considering the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on its anti-trafficking capacity. Therefore, Bangladesh remains on Tier 2," said the 2022 TIP report released on Tuesday (19 July).

"These efforts included increasing investigations, prosecutions, and convictions against human traffickers, including upholding the dismissal of a member of parliament involved in a labour trafficking case," said the report that covers 188 countries including the US. The annual report ranks governments based on their perceived efforts to acknowledge and combat human trafficking.

It ranks countries in three tiers. Countries assessed as meeting the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 or TVPA's minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking are placed on Tier 1.

The countries which are not meeting minimum TVPA standards but making efforts are placed on Tier 2. Bangladesh has been on the Tier 2 Watch List from 2017 to 2019.

In 2020, 2021 and this year, Bangladesh has been ranked among the countries on Tier 2.

The countries which are not meeting minimum TVPA standards and not making significant efforts to meet them are placed on Tier 3.

About Bangladesh, the report mentioned that in August 2021, the seven Anti-Trafficking Tribunals resumed operations and the Rangpur and Rajshahi tribunals became the third and fourth courts to record trafficking convictions.

"The government also ratified the protocol to the ILO's forced labour convention as part of efforts against forced labour. However, the government did not meet the minimum standards in several key areas," read the report.

It said that Bangladesh identified fewer potential trafficking victims compared with the previous reporting period and victim care remains insufficient.

The government continued to allow recruitment agencies to charge high recruitment fees to migrant workers and did not consistently address sub-agents conducting illegal recruitment operations, leaving workers vulnerable to trafficking, the report noted.

"The government did not uniformly employ standard operating procedures (SOPs) to identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations, resulting in the penalisation of some returning migrant workers and potential sex trafficking victims. In addition, the government pursued policy changes that would force potential labour trafficking victims to go through civil arbitration prior to initiating criminal investigations," it further read.

A country remaining on the watch list for three consecutive years automatically downgrades to Tier 3 unless the government makes significant efforts to combat human trafficking.

Regarding the consequences for a country moving down from Tier 2 to Tier 3, a US Embassy official in Dhaka said last week, "A country that moves downward faces automatic cut-off in millions of dollars of assistance. It does not impact humanitarian assistance and certain trade-related assistance, but very dramatically cuts the amount of money the US can provide."