Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen on Thursday said human trafficking is like a cancer in a society that undermines the lives of individuals and future of their families, and tarnishes the country’s image.
“We cannot allow some irresponsible people to slap on the face of the people who are working hard to develop the country,” Masud said.
Bangladeshis are one of the top ten nationals who crossed the Mediterranean Sea during 2014-2022, and such statistics go against the achievements Bangladesh made, he said.
The foreign secretary was talking to journalists at the closing session of a workshop on "Migration and Media" organised by International Organisation for Migration (IOM) in cooperation with Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh (DCAB) at a city hotel.
On the bilateral front, the foreign secretary said, they have signed an MoU with Greece that will see Bangladeshi workers migrating to Greece each year in a regular and orderly manner.
Under the MoU, Greece will create employment for 4,000 new Bangladeshi workers each year by providing them with temporary work permits for five years, he said.
"We hope to see a sharp decline in illegal migration and trafficking of Bangladeshi workers," Masud said.
Also, similar arrangements are on the way with Italy, Malta and a number of European countries, he said.
Bangladeshis were found as irregular migrants reaching the shores of Italy in the first six months this year.
Of the 28,405 irregular migrants in the first six months this year, there were a total of 4,606 Bangladeshis followed by Egyptians, Tunisians, and Afghans.
They take risky boat journeys in the Mediterranean sea to reach Europe and many of them die.
“We need to empower our workers with skills," Masud said adding that if the workers are not empowered there are more scopes for abuses.
Despite sustained efforts, human trafficking continues to thrive through trans-national networks.
"We need to work on prevention, interception and prosecution on both ends of the spectrum. Here, media can play a constructive role to educate our people about the risk of choosing irregular pathways of migration," said the foreign secretary.
Media can empower migrants and the communities they live to shape positive public perceptions about migration and migrants, he said.
"We should remain committed collectively to harnessing the benefits of sound human mobility for the sustainable development of our peoples and the planet," he said.
Former foreign secretary and Senior Policy Advisor IOM Bangladesh Shahidul Haque said while there are socio-economic factors for migration, climate change and conflicts are becoming major reasons for migration recently.
Bangladesh has played important role at the international level, especially in having the Global Compact on Migration in place, a UN-led global deal, but migration governance at home is not in a very good shape, he said.
Haque said Bangladesh should not be seen only as a source country of migrant, but it is also a receiving and transit country.
EU Ambassador to Bangladesh Charles Whiteley said EU is working on finding legal migration pathways for Bangladeshis, alongside other nationalities.
It has been supporting and will continue to do so to Bangladesh to improve migration governance and reintegration efforts as it is doing under the Standard Operating Procedures now under the project PROTTASHA.
IOM Bangladesh Chief of Mission Abdusattor Esoev and Diplomatic Correspondents Association, Bangladesh President Rezaul Karim Lotus also spoke.