Charge d ’Affairs Helen LaFave’s Remarks at the National Workshop on Trafficking In Persons

Charge d ’Affairs Helen LaFave’s at the National Workshop for Revising and Extending the National Plan of Action for the Prevention and Suppression of Human Trafficking 2018-2022

January 18, 2023

  • Aminul Islam Khan;
  • Senior Secretary of Public Security Division at the Ministry of Home Affairs;
  • Distinguished representatives from the Government of Bangladesh;
  • Esteemed partners, guests, members of the media, ladies and gentlemen:

Assalamu alaikum, nomoshkar, and shubho shokal!

I am grateful to be here with you today and want to thank you all for your steadfast commitment to fighting against trafficking-in-persons.  This is also auspicious timing for us because January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.  In 2010, then-President Obama declared January as “National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month” and every year since, each president has followed this tradition.

So today, we offer the continued support of the U.S. government in fighting trafficking-in-persons in Bangladesh.  I’d especially like to recognize Mr. Md. Aminul Islam Khan and our other esteemed colleagues from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Social Welfare, and all counterparts from the Government of Bangladesh for your commitment to ending this crime.

We all know that trafficking-in-persons is a worldwide human rights issue.  Every year, nearly 25 million men, women, and children are bought and sold for commercial sexual exploitation, forced labor, and debt bondage.  Traffickers generate billions of dollars in profits by victimizing people in every country around the world.

Fighting human trafficking is one of the U.S. government’s top priorities and we are committed to partnering with the Government of Bangladesh to prevent these crimes.

Today’s workshop and the four events that preceded this in Khulna, Rajshahi, Chattogram, and Sylhet demonstrate how Bangladesh is taking serious steps to counter trafficking-in-persons.  I am very happy to see so many participants and representatives from the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Social Welfare, and non-governmental organizations.  This important work and continued progress cannot be done without you.

Human trafficking targets the most vulnerable in our communities.  From April 2021 through March 2022 Bangladesh reported 580 cases of sex trafficking and 6,378 cases of labor trafficking.  The victims were men, women, and even children.

The damage this crime inflicts upon individuals, communities, and the country is widespread, and so too must be our response to it.

We must continue to prioritize and expand inclusive, survivor-centered approaches to improve support services and help trafficking survivors reintegrate back into society more effectively.

Because of Bangladesh’s commitment, the U.S. State Department has placed Bangladesh on its Tier 2 for its Trafficking-in-Persons report since 2020.  Since then, Bangladesh has also established seven special tribunals, created task forces at four of the tribunals, created one Women and Children Repression Prevention tribunal in Cox’s Bazar, and demonstrated that it is committed to implementing the National Plan of Action.

Through USAID’s Fight Slavery and Trafficking in Persons project, the United States is proud to support the development of the National Plan of Action.

Over the past year, USAID support has provided training to over 400 justice sector actors including judges, public prosecutors, tribunal staff, and panel lawyers.  We also trained over 3,000 people at the local level, such as members of Counter Trafficking Committees and provided protection services to over 200 trafficking survivors.

In November 2022, USAID’s Fight Slavery and Trafficking in Persons project learned about three Bangladeshi trafficking survivors who were repatriated from Cambodia.  They were immediately able to mobilize and provide protection assistance, including shelter home support, psychosocial counseling, and unification with their families.

This is the type of work we will continue to do in partnership with you so that we can support more survivors with much-needed, holistic care and further prevent trafficking across communities and the country.

We also realize we have more work to do.  Part of this equation is strengthening the National Plan of Action to prevent trafficking.

However, no plan can be successful if it doesn’t lead to action.  This is why the United States will continue to support the Government of Bangladesh’s efforts to strengthen the National Plan of Action and end the horrific crime of trafficking-in-persons.  Too many Bangladeshis are still at-risk, and a large number of human trafficking cases are still pending.

The Trafficking in Persons Report rankings depend on an increase in action from the year before, not just business as usual.  None of us can be complacent in the fight to end trafficking.  Activities such as this extension of the NPA, the roll out of service provider guidelines, and the implementation of victim identification protocols are actions the government can take to demonstrate increased progress.

Our goals align with yours, and we hope today’s workshop and your critical inputs lead to a stronger plan; and lead to stronger actions that protect survivors; prosecute the perpetrators more effectively and ensure justice is served; and leverage the power of partnerships between government, NGOs, civil society, and all citizens to work together more closely to prevent human trafficking.

I believe that through our collective work and commitment, we can continue to make progress in preventing human trafficking and to ensure justice for trafficking victims.

Today’s event is another important step in that process.

Thank you very much.