Anwar, Abdul, and Rahman* set off for Sudan separately, not knowing they would meet in Sudan after going through the same harrowing ordeal.
The three Bangladeshis were lured by the promise of a better life abroad. They accepted the offer of work from which they would receive USD600 per month. None of them thought twice about the upfront fee of over USD2,000 that had to be paid to the recruiters. Each men reasoned that the amount could be easily absorbed by the lucrative salary.
“In Bangladesh I worked here-and-there to put food on the table for my wife and son, but I was always worried about the next day,” said 33-year-old Abdul. “The situation was getting worse, and it was then that I met someone who promised to take me to Sudan.”
Situated between North Africa and the Horn of Africa, Sudan is a major source, transit, and destination country for migrants. Along their migration journey or upon arriving in their destination, migrants - particularly those in irregular situations, are highly vulnerable to exploitation and abuse.
Rahman’s story was almost the same as Abdul’s. “I met an agent who asked me to pay 2,300 dollars for the trip to Sudan. Although it was a big amount of money, I wasn’t worried because I thought I would earn it back in a few months,” the 28-year-old said. Little did he know, the reality would be something he did not expect.
Upon arrival in Sudan, the recruiters stopped responding to the men’s messages, phone calls, and eventually became unreachable. They had vanished with the money and passports.
“I was in tremendous despair. I did not know what to do. I did not get the salary I was promised, nor the job. I had no passport and no money,” said Anwar. “Eventually, I borrowed money from acquaintances to eat and stayed with them in Khartoum. For three years I worked as a labourer for one hundred dollars a month. I missed my wife and son. Soon I realised there was no use for me to remain in Sudan.”
A Bangladeshi community leader had heard of the men’s plight. It turned out that a year before, he had attended a training at the Migrant Resource and Response Centre (MRRC) in Khartoum on identifying victims of trafficking. He contacted the three men and suggested that they reach out to the MRRC. And so, they did.
This was one of three MRRCs run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Sudan. The other two are in Gedaref and Kassala states.
Through the support of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the EU-IOM Joint Initiative for Migrant Protection and Reintegration in the Horn of Africa, the MRRCs support vulnerable and stranded migrants with medical assistance, psychosocial support and with information on assisted voluntary return and reintegration (AVRR) to their countries of origin.
When they reached out to the Khartoum MRRC, Anwar, Abdul, and Rahman were assessed and found eligible for AVRR under the US Department of State’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons (JTIP). The programme contributes towards global efforts to combat human trafficking. Work goes into the prosecution of traffickers, as well as the protection of victims and the prevention of such crimes in the US and across the world.
The three Bangladeshi have since reunited with their families and with the assistance of IOM Bangladesh will receive reintegration grants to assist them to re-establish their lives in their communities or origin.
Rahman plans to purchase a three-wheeler and to set up a transportation business while Abdul and Anwar intend to work and invest in agriculture.
For more information on the MRRC/MRC, please visit www.sudan.iom.int/migrant-protection-and-assistance.
*Names have been changed.
Images courtesy of Bryon Lippincott, via Flickr.com, some rights reserved.