Migrants from Morocco and Bangladesh combined to make up more than 7,000 of an estimated 30,000 arrivals to Italy from North Africa so far this year, according to an update released Friday by the International Organization for Migration in Rome.
That’s compared with numbers through April 30 in 2016, when there were less than 1,000 migrants reporting the two countries as their home of nationality. Italian officials recorded only three Bangladeshis leaving Libya through the end of April last year.
“In recent years, an increasing number of Bangladeshi nationals have been rescued at sea in the Central Mediterranean and brought to safety in Italy,” said Federico Soda, Director of IOM’s Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome. “This year, by the end of February, Bangladeshis registered as the fourth highest nationality at landing points in Italy. By the end of April they were the second nationality.”
In interviews, some migrants traveling from Bangladesh said they relied on “agents” who organized their journeys to Libya through Dubai and Turkey. They then had their documents seized by a Libyan who exploited them for about a year before they tried to leave their working conditions. A second group from Bangladesh said they lived in Libya for four years under similar conditions and arrangements.
“The above-mentioned instances and the increasing number of Bangladeshi nationals fleeing Libya, suggests that there is a well-organized, transnational illicit recruitment and exploitation system in place,” Soda said. He added that Libya was a popular destination for Bangladeshi migrant workers before its upheaval, so it is not surprising that it is still possible to recruit workers to go to Libya who then find themselves trapped by their debt and illegal status.
Overall, there have been more than 53,000 migrants arriving in southern Europe this year on the Mediterranean routes. That’s less than 30 percent of the estimated total for the same time period last year – but the reported death totals remain comparable.
There is a minimum estimate of 1,309 fatalities so far this year, almost all of them on the central Mediterranean route, compared with 1,381 at the same time last year.