Traffickers are exploiting young Bangladeshi’s hopes of escaping poverty by offering them fake work placements in Libya, trapping them in horrific conditions once they arrive.
“Dalals” and trafficking
Known in Bangladesh as “dalals”, these so-called travel agents traffic young people by convincing them to undertake the long journey to Libya promising them rewarding jobs. In reality, they end up being held for ransom in prisons or forced to work in factories for no pay in terrible conditions and indebted to the dalals.
Ali was just 19 years old when he made the long journey to Libya after he was befriended by a dalal in his home country and promised a job earning $500 a month working in factories. With his parents’ blessing, Ali embarked on the week-long journey only to be taken to a prison upon arrival in Benghazi.
Conditions in Libya
There, he was kept in a cell with 15 other Bangladeshis in violent conditions. People in his cell were regularly beaten if they were unable to contact family members to pay their ransom. Ali’s parents were forced to sell their last two cows to pay for his release.
But his ordeal wasn’t over. Ali ended up working for the traffickers in a tile factory in Tripoli.
Ali told BBC News:
“If we stopped working we were beaten, kicked and thrown to the ground. One time one of us broke a tile, then a man came and kicked the guy,” Ali says.
The teenager was living with the owner of the tile factor under lock and key.
“The owner took us to work and then when we were done he took us home. There were two guards watching us. We didn’t get paid for the job, there wasn’t enough food and so we wanted to run away.
“One of us tried, but he fell from the second floor and broke his leg.”
After various failed escape attempts, a kindly Libyan helped Ali find refuge at a mosque. He felt his only option was to contact traffickers again, this time to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Italy.
Though Ali is now safe in Italy and earning money to send back to his family, his application for humanitarian protection that would allow him to remain in Italy has been denied.
The EU’s role
Ali was lucky to make it to Italy. Many people who attempt the same journey are returned to dire conditions in Libya where they are subjected to torture and servitude. We are urgently calling on the EU to stop funding the Libyan coastguard and take accountability to tackle slavery in Libya.
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