05/14/2019, 13.19
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Enquiry finds 88 travel agencies involved in migration via Mediterranean Sea

by Sumon Corraya

The government carried out inspection of dozens of agencies across the country. Thirty-seven Bangladeshis died off the Tunisian coast. For the country’s Foreign Minister, migrants were trafficked from a Middle Eastern country.

Sylhet (AsiaNews) – Bangladeshi authorities have carried out checks on dozens of travel agencies across the country after a boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, claiming the lives of some 70 people, 37 of them from Bangladesh.

The Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh (ATAB) announced that at least 88 agencies in the Sylhet area are involved in human trafficking, including Yeahia Overseas, which organised the trip of three people who died off the Tunisian coasts.

The incident in question occurred on 10 May some 40 miles from the city of Sfax, Tunisia. The boat had left the Libyan city of Zuara the day before full of migrants heading towards Europe.

This is the worst tragedy in the Mediterranean since January. The Tunisian Navy and local fishermen have recovered only 16 people so far, including 14 Bangladeshis.

Bangladeshi Foreign Affairs Minister AK Abdul Momen confirmed that Bangladeshi nationals were on board of the boat that was trying to reach an Italian port illegally.

He also noted that his government does not allow Bangladeshis to travel to war zones like Libya, so those who died “probably entered Libya via any of the Middle Eastern countries with the help of human traffickers.”

Sujor Ahamad is one of the survivors. Recalling the event, he said, “We swam eight hours, if the fishermen came ten minutes later, we all might be dead now”.

Six of the 37 Bangladeshi migrants who drowned came from Sylhet. The victims' families have asked Bangladeshi authorities to repatriate the bodies of their loved ones.

At the same time, they are demanding exemplary penalties for human traffickers and their intermediaries that promise work and well-being to poor young people.

According to relatives of the dead, those responsible had assured them a direct flight to Italy; instead the migrants were put on a boat in order to enter the country illegally.

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