Things that make you to Think
Following a two-month ordeal of uncertainty and torture, 28-year-old Nabi Hossain has finally set foot on Bangladesh soil again; but he had to pay Tk50,000 to secure his freedom from the smugglers who are still holding hundreds captive at sea.
Nabi is among 17 Malaysia-bound people who were picked up by the BGB forces yesterday from Shah Porir Dwip’s Jaliapara area in Teknaf upazila. The rescued men had all earlier set out for a better future in Malaysia, leaving the country in two separate groups from Moheshkhali and Ukhia’s Sonapara beach.
The rescued people – who landed in Shah Porir Dwip in two boats – are: Yunus Ali, Abu Bakkar, Shahjahan from Chittagong’s Satkania, Hiron Momin, Alam, Sohel, Rokib, Shahabuddin, Kazi Ilias, Yusuf, Asad Mia, Safiq Mia, Billal, Kawsar Mia from Narsingdi, Nabi Hossain and Manik from Narayanganj.
They, however, are the lucky ones. The fate of hundreds of their travel companions remain uncertain as they continue to be held in crammed boats at unknown locations at sea; in order to secure passage back home, they have to meet ransom demands of their captors.
Nabi said that even though his ransom was paid to a bKash account in Bangladesh, the smugglers dropped them off in a hilly jungle area in Myanmar instead of carrying them to Bangladeshi shores.
“As the ship could not enter Thailand territory, the brokers in the ship decided to return us to our country. But not free of charge; at first they demanded Tk1 lakh, then Tk50,000 for each of us,” Nabi told the Dhaka Tribune at the Teknaf police station.
“Twelve of us first boarded a small boat and after 25 hours we boarded another chocolate-coloured vacant ship in the Myanmar sea. The boat had 66 people [captives] including four women – three of them Burmese and another woman from Teknaf aged around 26.
“Five among the captives jumped overboard to escape torture and died in the water. It made us give them the money only to save our own lives,” Nabi added.
Despite paying the ransom, the smugglers only brought them as far as Myanmar before dropping them off in a remote area.
“When they left us in Myanmar along with the three Burmese women, one broker took the Bangladeshi woman with him and headed to another direction inside the jungle,” said Nabi.
Shahabuddin, who was also among those left in the jungle, said: “We walked for a long time. Then after three hours of swimming, we found a barb wired fence in front of us. Within a few moments, two people appeared and tried to force us to go with them. A scuffle ensued and we all started beating them and managed to rescue ourselves from another enslavement.
“Later we passed eight more fences and swam across three more rivers to reach a Muslim area in Myanmar. The locals gave us clothes and foods. They also helped us reach Shah Porir Dwip by hiring a boat” he added.
Different ship, same struggle
Yunus Ali, who left from Sonapara beach and returned on a separate vessel than that of Nabi, said there were around 220 Malaysia-bound Bangladeshis, including 120 people who hailed from Narsingdi, on the vessel where he was held captive.
The ship also had around 105 Rohingya people; among them, 70 were women including a pregnant woman and around 20 other children of under 10 years of age.
“We initially climbed into a boat which had ‘Tarek’ written on it, before reaching the ship near a hill called Shital Pahar in Myanmar,” Yunus said.
The nine Bangladeshis from that ship who managed to return to Bangladesh said each of them had to pay Tk50,000 to be dropped off in Myanmar, before paying another Tk20,000 to reach Shah Porir Dwip.
All of the rescued people said they had earlier been promised by their agents that they would not have to pay a single taka to be transported to Malaysia.
The rescued men are currently being kept under the custody of Teknaf police station, and are expected to be produced before local courts today.
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