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Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Compiled by SDNP

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Human Trafficking
Dhaka disagrees with US rating
Recommends status be upgraded

Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan yesterday reiterated that Dhaka does not subscribe to the US report that tags Bangladesh as one of the most vulnerable states of origin in human trafficking.

He, however, said the United States should upgrade Bangladesh to a higher tier in recognition of the country's recent proactive measures against human trafficking.

"We never did accept Bangladesh's position in tier 3 and that's why we are pressing our case forward," Morshed told reporters referring to re-assessment of the country's role in containing human trafficking.

A US team arrived in Dhaka Monday to re-assess relegation of Bangladesh as one of the worst performers in preventing human trafficking.

Earlier on June 14, the US State Department in its report on human trafficking downgraded Bangladesh to tier 3 for countries that are most vulnerable states of origin for human trafficking from tier 2.

In a letter in May the US embassy in Dhaka gave a six-step work plan for Bangladesh to follow in response to the "Human Trafficking in Persons Report 2004".

Speaking in his office, Morshed said the government has taken some very significant steps to prevent human trafficking.

Morshed said government steps that include stronger implementation of existing anti-human trafficking laws, greater conviction of traffickers, and more rigorous border screening measures, within a span of only 38 days of the US report is well up to par and should be encouraged by a return to tier 2.

"We need support, because no country with such limited resources like ours can tackle the menace itself," said Morshed, adding, "Even more affluent nations like Greece and Turkey were downgraded to tier 3 in the US State Department's reports on human trafficking in previous years, but were put up to tier 2 after a year."

Reaz Rahman, adviser to the government on foreign affairs, told reporters that Dhaka has explained its difficulties in stemming the flow of human trafficking to the visiting US team, but also maintained that the government is very determined to make every possible effort to meet the challenge.

"We'd continue the process as part of our commitment to the people, not merely to graduate to tier 2 of a particular report," said Morshed.

The continuation of Bangladesh in tier-3, Rahman said, would project a negative image of the country and might even deter possible General System of Preference facility as well as military assistance.

Withdrawal of non-humanitarian and non-trade US assistance could follow, if the visiting US team judge Bangladesh to have made inadequate efforts in improving the human-trafficking situation.

No country, however, has ever been slapped with such sanctions by the US for being marked as tier-3 country.

The US had given Bangladesh a deadline till August 14 to make 'significant efforts' to comply with related US laws on human trafficking in persons in order to have a re-assessment. The visiting US team, lead by Mark Taylor, a senior official at the State Department, would return to US and have till September 14 to re-assess Bangladesh's position in tier 3 and give its report to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

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Work hard to recover losses: PM
Int'l assistance sought again

The Bangladesh Observer

KERANIGANJ, Aug 10:–Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia today thanked the people for facing the current deluge with courage and patience and urged them to work hard to recover the losses caused by the calamity, reports BSS.

An extensive post-flood rehabilitation programme will begin across the country next month after recession of the flood waters, she told the affected people while distributing relief goods among them at different spots on the southern bank of the river Buriganga in Keraniganj area of Dhaka district this afternoon.

“This year’s flood has caused more losses than those of 1988 and 1998. The government has tackled the flood situation with its own resources. Now we have to work more to recover the losses,” the prime minister said.

“The government’s relief and rescue activities are fair and successful. There has been no scandal over the distribution of relief goods and none has starved for want of food,” she said.

Begum Zia said the government has, however, sought international assistance for post-flood rehabilitation of the country’s infrastructural facilities which were badly damaged in the deluge. She hoped that foreign assistance would be available soon and reconstruction of schools, roads, bridges and other infrastructures would begin in every district as per an assessment now under way.

The Prime Minister took a seven-kilometre ride in a speed boat in the Buriganga and distributed rice, saree and lungi among the flood-affected people at six spots in Keraniganj district.

She also addressed spontaneous gatherings before distributing relief at Doleshwar College Ghat and Hasnabad Ghat at the south- east of Buriganga Bridge, Mandail Matrisadan Ghat at Jinjira, Par Gandaria, Barishur High School Ghat and Shaheed Ziaur Rahman School Ghat at the south-eastern side of Second Buriganga Bridge.

Thousands of people in hundreds of engine boats followed the Prime Minister as the boat carrying her started from Postogola Cantonment Ghat.

People from all walks of life also greeted the Prime Minister from the southern bank of the Buriganga. The Prime Minister told the flood victims that they are not alone in their time of crisis. “My government, my party and I myself are always by your side like in the past as your friends in need,” she said adding: “You will find us by your side in time of crisis, if any, in future too”.

Begum Zia assured the people of continued relief support until a new crop is harvested and said food would be supplied to the needy people through Vulnerable Group Feeding (VGF) cards.

She also said the affected people would also get jobs when massive reconstruction activities will begin all over the country after the floods.

The Prime Minister thanked the affluent people for coming forward in aid of the flood-affected people, including contributions to the Prime Minister’s relief fund. She also urged them to extend more help to the affected people.

Mentioning agriculture sector as the worst victim of the deluge, Begum Zia Said, the government has taken adequate measures for its rehabilitation to recover the losses suffered by this sector due to the floods.

The farmers would get five kilograms of seeds and 25 kilograms of fertilizer free of cost. They would also get agriculture loans and other support, she added.

The affected people would also get assistance to rebuild their houses, she said. Communications Minister Barrister Nazmul Huda, Shipping Minister Akbar Hossain, State Minister for Labour and Employment Amanullah Aman, Prime Minister’s Political Secretary Harris Chowdhury and Mahila Dal leader Bilkis Islam, among others, accompanied the Prime Minister.

The district administration informed the Prime minister that 12 unions of Keraniganj were affected in the floods. Crops on 11,600 hectares of land and 310 kilometres of road were damaged.  Fifty-eight flood shelter centres were opened in the area.  In aid of the flood-affected people, the businessmen of Keraniganj handed over a cheaque for Taka 2 lakh to the Prime Minister at Shaheed Ziaur Rahman School Ghat.

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Australian help for flood victims

The Bangladesh Observer

Australia has announced its first stage of assistance for Bangladesh flood victims. Australia will also contribute 22 lakh Taka (AUD 50,000) to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies' emergency appeal and 22 lakh Taka (AUD 50,000) to the Bangladesh Rural Advance Commission (BRAC).

Furthermore, Australia will ensure that its first shipment of wheat, at an estimated cost of over 78 crore Taka (AUD 18 million), arrives months sooner than planned due to the increased demand on food aid programmes from flood victims, says a Press release.

The Red Cross/Crescent appeal focuses on initial emergency relief including family kits, made up of clothing, cooking utensils, soap, and other basic items, the provision of medical services and longer-term assistance in re-establishing crops.

BRAC is providing immediate flood relief assistance to vulnerable groups, especially women and children who are without food and shelter as a result of the floods. Assistance will focus on the provision of clean drinking water, basic food and medical supplies.

The Australian Government's Emergency Response Adviser, Geoff Miller, is actively working as a member of the six-person United Nations Disaster Assistance Committee (UNDAC) team co-ordinating the UN Flash Appeal. Further Australian Government assistance will be announced following the release of the appeal this week.

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