At least 230 Bangladeshis attempting to illegally enter the United States from the southern border are languishing in Mexican jails after being arrested between January and August, according to a letter from the Bangladeshi embassy obtained by BenarNews.
Ninety percent of those arrested come from a district in Bangladesh, says the letter from the diplomatic mission in Mexico City seeking advice from the Bangladeshi government. In Dhaka, Interior Ministry officials who received him said they had made efforts to tackle international human trafficking networks.
“You will find desperate people (Bangladeshis) who resort to illegal means to go abroad at any cost. They are still trying to go to European countries and America. But I think their numbers have dropped, ”Interior Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told BenarNews on Tuesday.
“We have tightened our immigration regime and introduced electronic passports. Hopefully human trafficking from Bangladesh will decrease in the future – we will eliminate it, ”he said.
Leaders of the Bangladeshi community in the United States – who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid possible follow-up questions from U.S. immigration officials – said the Mexican border was still a route for illegally entering Bangladeshis to the United States by land routes in Central and South America, but it became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the letter warned that unless human trafficking is stopped, Bangladesh could be demoted in the US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, potentially damaging Dhaka’s ties. with Washington.
“Bangladesh has been rated level 2 in the US Trafficking in Persons Report. If this trend in human trafficking continues, Bangladesh could be downgraded in the next TIP report and face enormous international pressure, ”Nur Khan, a human rights activist, told BenarNews.
He and other activists said human trafficking of Bangladeshis has increased in recent years due to economic uncertainties and lack of job opportunities in their country.
The letter described how the Bangladeshis set out to enter the United States illegally across the border with Mexico. He said immigrants from India were the largest number to attempt while the number from Bangladesh was large.
The letter stated that the Bangladeshis, with valid travel documents, had left Dhaka for the Indian cities of Kolkata and New Delhi.
“They would fly to Dubai from New Delhi and reach Sao Paulo (in Brazil) via Addis Ababa. From Sao Paulo, they would fly to Peru, ”the letter said.
Bangladeshis would pass through eight countries – Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala – on foot, by boat and by bus.
“In exchange for a large sum of money, a section of dishonest human traffickers would lure young people from lower and lower middle class families for the dangerous and uncertain journey,” the letter said, adding that those seeking to getting to The United States ends up paying at least 1.5 million taka (US $ 17,500) at various stages.
After passing through Panama, Bangladeshis would destroy their passports in an attempt to claim stateless refugee status in Mexico, a member of the international human rights convention, according to the letter.
Later, after reaching Mexican towns along the US border, they would voluntarily surrender to police, according to the letter. According to the convention, the Mexican government cannot detain them for more than 40 consecutive days because of their stateless claim.
Once released, many people attempt – some successfully – to enter the United States illegally, according to the letter. He said 421 Bangladeshis were detained in Mexico in 2017; 631 in 2018; 421 in 2019; 230 in 2020 and the same number this year.
“If we offered them free tickets, they would say they preferred death to returning to Bangladesh,” the letter said.
While in detention in Mexico, Bangladeshis falsely claim to be members of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), but cannot name officials, according to the party leader.
“I learned from you that my party leaders and my activists went to the Mexican border to enter the United States,” Oli Ahmad, president of the LDP, told BenarNews on Tuesday. “The human traffickers abused the name of my party.
Humayun Kabir, former Bangladeshi ambassador to the United States, said the number of Bangladeshis seeking to enter the United States by crossing the Mexican border was low in 2005 and 2006.
“This trend has intensified in recent years. And this is due to economic factors, ”he said.
“Every year, 2 million new people enter the labor market and many of them cannot find good jobs. So part of these young people tried to sneak into European countries and the United States by whatever means, ”Kabir told BenarNews.
“We cannot stop it overnight. Unless we can guarantee decent work and employment opportunities, this trend will continue, ”he said.
Khan, the human rights activist, agreed with Kabir that the tendency of Bangladeshis to head to the United States has increased in recent years.
“The root cause is economic inequality and economic uncertainties in Bangladesh where only a handful of people are enjoying the fruits of the government’s development initiatives,” he told BenarNews.
Khan said the coronavirus pandemic forced more Bangladeshis to leave after losing their jobs.
“Therefore, they tried to enter the United States and European countries with the help of human traffickers. Many of them die on the way, ”he said.
The United States recently cracked down on at least one Bangladeshi trafficker. On September 28, the Justice Department sentenced Mohamad Milon Hossain, 41, identified as a Bangladeshi national who lived in Tapachula, Mexico, to 46 months in prison for his role in a scheme to smuggle homeless people in. papers in the country.
“This human trafficking plot operated globally and endangered the lives of Bangladeshi migrants,” US Deputy Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. said in a statement at the time.
“The Department of Justice will continue to work with our law enforcement partners at home and abroad to bring smugglers like Hossain to justice and to disrupt those criminal networks that illegally bring migrants from around the world to the United States. United.”
Mahbub Leelen in Washington contributed to this story.