Bangladesh launches trafficker crackdown after Mediterranean deaths

Ahmed Bilal (C), a Bangladeshi and a survivor of a boat carrying migrants that sunk in the Mediterranean during the night of 9 and 10 May, rests with fellow survivors at a shelter in the Tunisian coastal city of Zarzis on May 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 16 May 2019
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Bangladesh launches trafficker crackdown after Mediterranean deaths

  • Authorities sealed off 23 travel agencies in northeastern Sylhet district after it was found many were working for international trafficking networks
  • Magistrate Nasirullah Khan said the crackdown will continue against the “greedy and illegal travel agents” who prey on unemployed young men

DHAKA: Bangladesh authorities have launched a crackdown on suspected people-smugglers masquerading as “travel agents” after dozens of Bangladeshis drowned while trying to cross the Mediterranean into Europe, officials said Thursday.
About 60 people died last week when a boat full of would-be migrants capsized while trying to cross from Libya to Italy, in a case that has put the spotlight on the desperate struggle of young unemployed Bangladeshis to find work abroad.
Fourteen Bangladeshis were among 16 people rescued by Tunisian fishermen, while Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen said 39 Bangladeshis were unaccounted for.
Families of those who died said the so-called “travel agents” took money from youths in exchange for a passage to Libya and the promise of a sea crossing to Europe.
Authorities sealed off 23 travel agencies in northeastern Sylhet district after it was found many were working for international trafficking networks, Momen said.
“We will take stern action against these agents,” he told reporters.
Five mobile courts set up on the back of trucks ordered jail terms for nine suspected traffickers and another 29 were fined, said Sylhet government administrator Kazi Emdadul Islam.
Magistrate Nasirullah Khan said the crackdown will continue against the “greedy and illegal travel agents” who prey on unemployed young men.
“We want to ensure no mother would ever lose her child again,” he said.
Tens of thousands of young Bangladeshi men have attempted the perilous Mediterranean crossing in recent years, and the number of traffickers catering to them has mushroomed.
While the Bangladesh economy has grown at an annual clip of 6-7 percent through the decade, there are still not enough jobs and many young men try to reach Europe and North America on death-defying illegal routes.
Growing unemployment is fueling desperation to escape, said Professor Jalal Uddin Sikder, a migration expert at the University of Liberal Arts in Dhaka.
“Low paid jobs are available but these young men want better paid jobs in the West,” he told AFP.
“But many do not survive the long, tiring journey through the desert and across the seas, while some get sold as slaves even before they reach the Libyan coast.”


Clashes between prisoners in Brazil jail leave 15 dead

Updated 1 min 39 sec ago
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Clashes between prisoners in Brazil jail leave 15 dead

  • Authorities had reacted within minutes to the Sunday violence, preventing a potentially worse result
  • Brazil has the world’s third largest prison population, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016
SAO PAULO: Clashes between inmates killed 15 people at a jail in Amazonas state in northern Brazil on Sunday, the regional prison authority said.
The clashes broke out around 11:00 a.m. during visiting hours at the facility, located some 28 kilometers from state capital Manaus.
“It was a fight between the inmates. There had never been deaths during the visits,” Col. Marcos Vinicius Almeida told a news conference.
Some of the inmates were stabbed with sharpened toothbrushes, while others had been strangled, Almeida said, adding that an investigation has been opened to determine the cause of the fight.
He emphasized that authorities had reacted within minutes to the Sunday violence, preventing a potentially worse result.
The same facility was the scene of a prison rebellion that lasted almost 20 hours and left 56 people dead in January 2017.
Brazil has the world’s third largest prison population, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016, according to official statistics.
The population is double the capacity of the nation’s prisons, which in the same year was estimated to be 368,049 inmates.
Along with severe overcrowding, Brazil’s prisons are plagued by gang violence, while riots and breakout attempts are not uncommon.
In September, heavily armed men detonated explosives outside the gate of a prison in northeastern Brazil and then shot their way inside, killing a policeman and releasing 92 inmates, about half of whom were later recaptured.
The previous April, a military-style battle erupted between guards and prisoners aided by outside associates, leaving 21 people dead at a prison in Belem, near the Amazon rainforest.
The attackers in that case tried to blow up a wall to help the would-be escapees. One policeman was killed alongside 20 prisoners and their associates.
In January 2017, Brazilian police had to launch a massive manhunt after 184 inmates escaped from two prisons in Amazonas state following a gruesome 17-hour bloodbath between rival gangs that left 56 prisoners dead, many beheaded.
Brazil’s prisons are home to the leaders of several drug trafficking organizations, and the crisis in the country’s penitentiaries has had a ripple effect.
Earlier this year, a wave of about 80 attacks on public buildings, banks, buses and gas stations was blamed on newly announced measures to tighten control of prisons.