Vanuatu: Alleged human trafficking of over 100 Bangladeshi workers, now stranded, by furniture store owners

Dozens of Bangladeshis are stuck in Port Vila, Vanuatu's capital, after they were trafficked in what may be the Pacific's biggest human trafficking case. The workers were allegedly brought to Vanuatu illegally by the owners of a home and furniture store, Mr Price. The owners are facing several counts of human trafficking, and allegedly arranged and facilitated the workers' entry in Vanuatu using deception, denial of freedom of movement, and coercion or threat of violence.

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16 August 2019

Bangladeshi trafficking victims leave Vanuatu

Author: Radio New Zealand

19 June 2019

The 101 migrants have been under government care in Port Vila...after they were freed from their traffickers by police.

...[A] group of 16 migrants left Port Vila on a flight to Bangladesh....

The International Organisation for Migration is paying for and arranging their flights.

Some of the men - who were brought to Vanuatu over the past two years - are refusing to return to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh officials have said around 70 men will return to Bangladesh in different phases, with the remaining victims to stay as witnesses in the trial four people charged in connection with their trafficking.

Mr Khan said 11 victims had refused to sign forms expressing willingness to return to Bangladesh and were now facing pressure by Vanuatu police to sign.

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10 June 2019

IOM confirms Bangladeshi men trafficked to Vanuatu

Author: Radio New Zealand

23 May 2019

The International Organisation for Migration, or IOM, has confirmed dozens of Bangladeshi men in Vanuatu are victims of trafficking.

The statement corroborates witness accounts from 101 migrants who said they were promised jobs, only to be tortured and enslaved.

Their alleged captors have since been detained and face hundreds of charges in Vanuatu, including human trafficking.

An IOM spokesperson said the organisation is now providing bi-weekly food rations to the victims - many of whom refuse to return home.

The spokesperson said it's working with Vanuatu's government to assist in a voluntary return of the migrants.

"This process includes medical checks and an assessment of their area of origin to determine their needs in terms of reintegration support when they return."

Collectively, the group is demanding $US1.8 million in compensation for lost work and alleged abuse from Vanuatu or Bangladesh, whoever will pay....

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8 May 2019

Alleged human traffickers in Vanuatu denied bail

Author: Radio New Zealand

9 May 2019

Two people charged in Vanuatu over the trafficking of dozens of Bangladeshi migrants have had their bail denied by the country's High Court.

Sekdah Somon and Buxoo Nabilah Bibi face more than 300 charges, including human trafficking, over their alleged role in bringing 101 men to Vanuatu.

The Vanuatu High Court...heard the defendants' application for bail, which argued they needed to be released to pay their families' debts.

...The Bangladeshi men are said by their lawyers to be in legal limbo as key witnesses in the High Court case in the capital Port Vila, where the Vanuatu government is providing food and housing for the men.

A representative for the migrants has told RNZ Pacific they don't want to return to Bangladesh because they fear they will be killed over outstanding debts there.

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10 April 2019

Bangladesh pledges to bring Vanuatu trafficking victims home

Author: Naimul Karim, Reuters

11 April 2019

Bangladesh has begun steps to bring home 101 trafficking victims stranded in Vanuatu after they were lured there with the promise of work that never materialized....

The migrants, who include two minors, have been stuck in the remote Pacific island nation...when four people were arrested on charges of trafficking them, and are living off handouts and rations.

...“They will send a team to Vanuatu and begin the national verification soon,” home ministry official Abu Bakar Siddique....

...The 101 migrants are all male and say they were duped by a network of brokers in the central Bangladeshi cities of Tangail and Barisal who transported them to Vanuatu via India, Singapore and Fiji over the last two years.

Lured by the promise of sales jobs in Vanuatu and nearby Australia, the Bangladeshis said they had sold property and taken out loans worth up to $20,000 to pay for the move....

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27 March 2019

Allegedly trafficked Bangladeshis stranded in Vanuatu

Author: Mackenzie Smith, Radio New Zealand

29 March 2019

Rights groups are concerned for the welfare of dozens of Bangladeshis who say they were trafficked to Vanuatu and are now in limbo there.

The 101 men stuck in the capital Port Vila have described torture and abuse, in what could be the biggest human trafficking case in the Pacific.

...Shahin Khan...he says he was duped by human traffickers, who enslaved and tortured him and dozens of others.

..."I was tortured, I was starving, it's a very horrible situation actually, our heart is burning, you know, it can't stop."

Mr Khan's testimony is one of 101 Bangladesh men, who paint a grim picture of migrants lured by a businessman....

...For months, the group was forced to work long hours for no pay, kept in squalid conditions and given little food -- often only rice and boiled cabbage.

...Victims say they were promised construction work in Vanuatu paying up to $US5000 per month -- nearly 50 times the national average in Bangladesh.

Many paid as much as $US25,000 to get there, scrounging and mortgaging their homes in the process.

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25 November 2018

Couple remanded in big Vanuatu human trafficking, slavery case

Author: The Fiji Times

27 November 2018

...Sekdah Somon and Buxoo Nabilah Bibi – the owners of the "Mr Price" home and furniture store in Vanuatu – were arrested and charged with 12 counts of human trafficking.

...Somon and Bibi allegedly brought in 12 people from Bangladesh illegally to find jobs in Vanuatu.

..92 people had been allegedly illegally brought to Vanuatu by the couple and their cases are yet to be dealt with and brought before the court.

...The victims were placed in various locations in Port Vila.

...[T]he couple allegedly arranged and facilitated their entry in Vanuatu using deception, denial of their freedom of movement, coercion or threat of violence exploited and placed them in servitude.

They said after the 12 Bangladeshi workers came to Vanuatu, the couple allegedly subjected them to slavery by engaging them in work under oppressive terms and conditions, under menace of penalty and without freedom to leave at any time.

There were allegations these workers were promised good money for jobs in Vanuatu but they have to pay them some money in return for the offer.

The sources said that some of them allegedly paid US$2000 to the couple, some paid US$3900, US$4000,US$5000, US$6000 and US$8000.

...While the couple are known as owners of Mr Price, sources said the investigation was still underway to check whether or not the company had a link with the global Mr Price.

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