ABID AZAD

Things that make you to Think

Runaway teens now spurn Dhaka and go to Malaysia

A year ago, 16-year-old eighth grader Mohiuddin from Ukhiya of Cox’s Bazar reached a conclusion that he did not have the preparation to sit in the Junior School Certificate examination.

Instead, he decided to try his luck in Malaysia, by going there illegally, like some people in locality.

Mohiuddin soon found some other teenagers from the school and a few cousins who also had similar plans; and they made a big plan to set off for the voyage.

Mohiuddin’s classmate Jamal knew a broker named Manjur, a resident of the neighbouring Ramu upazila who works for a gang that sends people to Malaysia. Manjur’s reporting boss was another man named Salamatullah.

One day, the five teenagers bunked school and met Manjur secretly.

“Manjur told us that we did not have to pay him right away. It was okay with him if we paid him after going to Malaysia. He also told us that he would arrange a trip on a ship for us,” Mohiuddin said when this reporter met him recently.

“We were so happy that we started daydreaming about what we were going to do with all the money that we were going to earn in Malaysia. We wanted to build big houses and expensive cars!”

One evening, the five boys sneaked out and came to the Sonapara bridge near the Bay of Bengal with Manjur.

They were all set and waiting with excitement to get on board a ship and set off for Malaysia, with very little idea that they might eventually be abducted to remote jungle camps in Thailand and tortured there.

However, Mohiuddin’s father Md Islam, who was in the same area at that time, spoiled the show. Some people in the area saw Mohiduddin and informed his father.

Islam rushed to the bridge, got hold of his son and his companions, but Manjur fled the scene.

All this happened about a year ago. But it was not until March 3 this year that Mohiuddin realised how fortunate they were to have not boarded that ship. He came to know that one of his schoolmates, who went on the same voyage with help from a different broker, had been missing for months.

The broker

The missing boy from Mohiuddin’s school is Monjur Alam, a seventh grader and resident of West Holudia in Ukhiya. Monjur was lured by a broker named Bashir, who ran an electronic gadgets repairing shop in Morichcha Bazar.

Monjur’s father Ilias told this reporter: “One day, Monjur did not come home from school. Later I came to know that he sneaked out of school at tiffin break. Then I heard about Bashir and sought help from the local union council member and chairman but they did not help me.

“A month after my son went missing, I got a phone call from a man. He demanded Tk18,000 for returning my son. I obliged and paid the money to a woman in a burqa near the Teknaf branch of Islami Bank. But there was no news of my son.”

A few days later, Ilias caught Bashir with help from some local people and took him to the local union council chairman. But a union council member vouched for Bashir and the chairman released him. Immediately, Bashir fled the area.

“Then I went to the Ukhiya police station but they did not take any human trafficking cases. Instead, they told me look for my son more seriously.”

Bashir was popular among teenagers in the area. The boys used to “load” songs in their mobile phone memory cards from his shop. They trusted Bashir and believed in the stories he told about the beautiful life in Malaysia.

According to a number of teachers, students and guardians of the Morichcha Palong High School, Bashir has so far handed over 25-30 teenagers to human traffickers.

Assistant Headmaster Nazrul Islam said: “There was a time when teenagers ran away to Dhaka. Now, they want to go abroad. This cannot be good for the future of our nation.”

Case Study II: Back in one piece from neverland

Case Study I: A lure too good to be true

Human Trafficking In Our Times-VIII: Who sheltershuman traffickers?

Human Trafficking In Our Times-VII: A security crisis in the making?

Human Trafficking In Our Times-VI: The traffickers of Teknaf

Human Trafficking In Our Times-V: How modern slavers prey on Bangladeshi 

Human Trafficking In Our Times-IV: Bangladesh’s crime coast

Human Trafficking In Our Times-III: Sold into slavery for a few thousand taka

Human Trafficking In Our Times-II: Why risk your life on the open seas?

Human Trafficking In Our Times-I: The deadly route to Malaysia

 

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