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Cablegate: Bangladesh Government Response to 2007 Tip Report:

VZCZCXRO9521
RR RUEHCI RUEHDBU
DE RUEHKA #1321/01 2260758
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 140758Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY DHAKA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4778
INFO RUEHKT/AMEMBASSY KATHMANDU 9239
RUEHLM/AMEMBASSY COLOMBO 8053
RUEHIL/AMEMBASSY ISLAMABAD 1787
RUEHNE/AMEMBASSY NEW DELHI 0095
RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 0038
RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 0151
RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ALMATY 0071
RUEHNT/AMEMBASSY TASHKENT 0156
RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE
RUEHCI/AMCONSUL KOLKATA 0879
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DHAKA 001321

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

G/TIP FOR SNEUMANN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KCRM BG
SUBJECT: BANGLADESH GOVERNMENT RESPONSE TO 2007 TIP REPORT:
THE WAY FORWARD


1. (SBU) SUMMARY. The Embassy briefed Home Ministry and
police officials on the 2007 Trafficking in Persons report.
Most of the discussion focused on how to track labor
migration abuse cases. The government agreed to include
representatives of the Foreign and Expatriate Workers
ministries in future coordinating meetings, and would work
with us to develop an action plan by end-August. END SUMMARY.


MEETING WITH GOVERNMENT'S ANTI-TIP COORDINATING GROUP
============================================= ========

2. (SBU) POLOFF and AID met with the Home Ministry's
Anti-Trafficking Cell on July 23 to discuss the 2007
Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The Home Ministry was
represented by Joint Secretary (Political) Mujibur Rahman,
who spearheads the Ministry's anti-trafficking efforts. The
Deputy Secretary, Abdur Rouf, and representatives from the
Special Branch (Immigration) and Police were also in
attendance. All are key Embassy interlocutors on
anti-trafficking efforts.

NEW FOCUS ON LABOR ISSUES
=========================

3. (SBU) The report's focus on labor was the main focus of
discussion. We discussed the need to improve GOB's tracking
of labor migration cases. This includes not only following
administrative penalties and licenses revocations of
so-called "travel agencies" or "recruitment agencies" which
break the law, but also cases filed by police, eventual
prosecutions, and sentences against labor migration violators.

4. (SBU) The GOB representatives expressed confusion over the
different USG and United Nations definitions of trafficking,
specifically with regard to labor. According to Home
Ministry representatives, the cases they track now involve
violations of the Women and Children's Protection Act.
Because all cases are prosecuted under the same legislation,
they have been able to provide specialized training to
prosecutors and police. Also, it makes the cases easy to
track since they all fall into the same category and have the
same penalties attached, regardless of where in the country
the case is prosecuted.

5. (SBU) Migrant labor issues fall primarily under the
Expatriate Welfare Ministry, and are covered by different
legislation. Furthermore, the existing TIP case-tracking
framework was created specifically to monitor compliance with
the Women and Children's Protection Act and could not simply
be expanded to include other types of cases, like labor
abuses. They said they would need to discuss the issue in an
inter-agency meeting and try to come up with a solution that
meets the TIP report's requirements.

LABOR CASES HARD TO PROSECUTE
=============================

6. (SBU) Another challenge for the authorities regarding
labor abuses is the difficulty in putting together effective
prosecutions. A police representative said the main problem
in prosecuting cases against illicit recruitment companies is
that recruitment companies almost always offer to refund
workers' lost money in exchange for their agreement not to
testify in court. For this reason, government efforts to
compel witnesses to testify generally fail.

7. (SBU) Given the difficulty in prosecuting cases, usually
the strongest penalties that can be meted out are seizure of
assets, closure of companies, and de-licensing. These are
handled by the Expatriate Welfare Ministry. Starting with
the next coordination meeting, Expatriate Welfare
representatives will be invited to attend, and the Home
Ministry will request data from them on labor cases.

OTHER AREAS TO FOLLOW UP ON
===========================


DHAKA 00001321 002 OF 002


8. (SBU) POLOFF mentioned other concerns highlighted in the
TIP report, in particular the lack of appropriate protections
for witnesses and the GOB's lack of effort in protecting
adult male victims of sex trafficking.

9. (SBU) The Home Ministry officials said they would raise
witness protection within the anti-TIP inter-agency
coordinating process. Regarding the issue of adult male
victims, they cited the fact that their case tracking
mechanism was built around enforcement of the Women and
Children's Protection Act, which does not cover adult males.
They said they would raise this at the inter-agency level as
well.

FOREIGN MINISTRY TRAINING
=========================

10. (SBU) In separate meetings with the International
Organization of Migration (IOM) and the Ministry of Foreign
Affairs, POLOFF raised the issue of how Bangladesh's
embassies could better assist victims of trafficking. He
cited a recent report from Malaysia of workers who were
trapped at the Kuala Lumpur airport, unable to enter the
country because of incorrect paperwork yet unable to return
to Bangladesh because they lacked return tickets. The
Bangladesh Embassy became involved only after several days,
when the situation had already been resolved.

11. (SBU) The Foreign Ministry, working with IOM, offered to
organize a roundtable discussion with director-general level
Foreign Ministry officials to discuss this issue. An all-day
meeting is scheduled for August 18. POLOFF and the European
Commission's anti-trafficking program officer are both
scheduled to speak.

COMMENT: MOVING FORWARD...
==========================

12. (SBU) GOB officials were receptive to our concerns, and
expressed a commitment to improve efforts against sexual
trafficking and to combat better the exploitation of migrant
workers, though they are looking to us for assistance and
guidance. We will hold a follow-up meeting in late August to
discuss progress and further steps.
PASI

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