Skip to main content
Blog Post

Bangladesh: ICITAP Travels to Cox’s Bazar to Assess Law Enforcement Human Trafficking Efforts for Rohingya and Surrounding Communities

On February 15, the ICITAP-Bangladesh mission provided an update on its assistance efforts to counter trafficking in persons (TIP). At the end of January 2023, members of ICITAP’s TIP team visited several police stations in and around Cox’s Bazar to assess local law enforcement’s efforts in responding to the safety and security needs of the Rohingya refugee camps and their surrounding communities. These meetings revealed key information related to human trafficking routes, trafficking victims, trafficker behaviors, and the related police response to each of these illegal activities. During their visit, ICITAP learned that the maritime boundary of Cox’s Bazar is currently one of the easiest and most frequently traveled routes for transnational human trafficking and smuggling, with further information indicating that traffickers mainly utilize Bangladesh as a passthrough enroute to their final destinations of India, Thailand, Indonesia, or Malaysia.  In addition, the Cox’s Bazar Superintendent of Police (SP) shared that many Rohingya people have a much higher risk of being subjected to human trafficking, forced labor, and labor exploitation due to their current increased vulnerability. In fact, one of the largest refugee camps, Kutupalong, is located within the coastal district of Cox’s Bazar, providing traffickers with easy access to a large population of potential victims. Despite continuing challenges, law enforcement remains persistent in their fight against human trafficking. Specifically, the Ukhiya and Teknaf Police Stations reported pursuing covert operations to arrest traffickers and rescue victims. They also informed ICITAP of specialty desks that were currently being employed within nearly every police station in Bangladesh to help particularly vulnerable individuals, including women, children, elderly, and disabled. On average, these specialty desks see an average of 10-15 people per day, seeking assistance for complaints ranging from sexual and domestic violence to illegal child marriage, human trafficking, and smuggling crimes. Officers who work these desks have attended training programs organized by the Bangladesh Police Department and related NGOs. However, ICITAP’s TIP advisor noted that many of these officers, particularly those assigned to the women’s desk, appear to lack the specific training needed to conduct their required duties effectively. To address this shortcoming, ICITAP looks to develop a training program specifically focused on officers assigned to the women’s desk. As a result of the lessons learned from this visit, ICITAP looks to provide TIP investigations and human rights training for units to properly pursue human trafficking activities, while also providing opportunities for community awareness education and both regional and international partnership development initiatives to progress.  It should be noted that the U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh has expressed his commitment and support of ICITAP’s work in thwarting the ongoing exploitation of the Rohingya people and the future human trafficking and human rights training and awareness initiatives being recommended.

Updated July 17, 2023