“I decided to go to Libya when my father died a few years ago. I was the only person in the eight-member family and I had to do something to support the family,” said Lakuira Sobuj, a Bangladeshi migrant who arrived in Italy last time. a year after crossing the Mediterranean from Libya, says InfoMigrants.
The 25-year-old Bangladeshi citizen spent around €4,000 traveling to Libya in 2020, which was his main work destination. He had no intention of coming to Europe at that time.
“My family is poor. My mother works as a maid in our village in Shariatpur district, central Bangladesh. I had to sell our cow and take loans to go to Libya,” he says.
Sobuj, who did not go to school as a child due to his family’s poverty, was employed as a construction worker for a few months in the Libyan city of Benghazi. But he was beaten when he demanded his salary. So Sobuj decided to take the dangerous boat trip from Libya to Italy for a better life.
“We spent about 24 hours on a boat crossing the Mediterranean to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa on February 21, 2021. There were 93 people on the boat, of which more than 40 were my compatriots,” he said. declared.
Since then, Sobuj has lived in a center for migrants in Rome, the Italian capital. His dream of getting a job in the European country is not yet realized.
“I had to pay an extra 2,000 euros to a human trafficker in Libya for my trip to Italy… But I’m still unemployed here. I don’t know anyone here. No one offered me a job. My mother still works as a cleaner at home,” he told InfoMigrants. “I don’t know what awaits me in the future.”
Thousands of arrivals
With a GDP of more than 409 billion dollars (362 billion euros), Bangladesh is currently the 37th largest economy in the world. Forecasts suggest that the size of the economy could double by 2030.
But even though the South Asian country has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world, thousands of its citizens are still trying to come to Europe in hopes of a better and safer life.
Annual statistics released by the EU border agency Frontex show that at least 8,667 Bangladeshi citizens entered the bloc last year irregularly. Of this group, 7,574 came via the Central Mediterranean route, 604 via the Eastern Mediterranean and 437 via the Western Balkans.
Bangladesh is second on Frontex’s list of countries whose citizens travel the dangerous central Mediterranean route linking Libya and Italy.
Last month, seven Bangladeshis died of hypothermia while trying to reach Lampedusa from Libya. Such victims are regular on this road.
Italy most popular
Frontex statistics also suggest that most Bangladeshi migrants who entered the EU illegally last year ended up in Italy. It has remained the preferred destination for many Bangladeshis over the past decades.
Arafat Rahman, a Bangladeshi migrant who arrived in Serbia last year on a seasonal worker visa, told InfoMigrants his ultimate destination was Italy.
“I have already spent thousands of euros to find a way to reach Italy from Serbia. And I hope to make it possible soon,” he said.
Rahman said Bangladeshi human traffickers who live in Serbia charge between €4,000 and €6,000 per person to smuggle someone from Serbia to Italy.
“The safest way to make the trip is to get on a truck that goes to Italy from Serbia. But you have to pay traffickers a lot of money to make that happen,” Rahman said. “Other ways include crossing borders on foot, which is risky but cheaper.”
Rahman has not yet made this trip. He ended up living in a migrant center in Serbia after a smuggler stole his money and threatened to kill him if he tried to file a complaint with the local police.
“I came to Serbia hoping to reach Italy after failing to find a job as a computer operator in a court in Bangladesh,” Rahman said.
He was told that if he wanted the job, which paid €160 per month, he would have to pay a bribe of €16,000.
“I decided not to take the job because the bribe was too high,” Rahman explained. “I could earn a lot more in Italy and repay the loan I took out to come here.”
“About 150,000 Bangladeshi migrants live in Italy. They are employed in various sectors including agriculture, shipbuilding and street trading,” Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh’s ambassador to Italy, told InfoMigrants.
No other country in the EU has so many Bangladeshi immigrants. The diplomat thinks Italy has a more welcoming attitude towards foreigners. It also occasionally legalizes migrant workers in an irregular situation.
“There has been a public perception that Italy is very lenient towards foreigners. This is why many people believe that they will obtain legal status at some point after entering one way or another. around the country using different routes,” Ahsan explained.
No legal channels
The Italian government has made it possible to hire workers from Bangladesh in the “seasonal” and “non-seasonal” categories from 2020.
According to a circular distributed by the Bangladesh Embassy in Rome last month, Italy will issue 69,700 visas this year for 31 non-EU countries, including Bangladesh.
“Bangladeshi migrants should try to come to Italy through legal means,” Ahsan continued, noting that Bangladesh had signed an EU agreement that meant illegal migrants could be expelled more quickly.
But coming legally is not easy.
“Only 3,500 Bangladeshi migrants will be able to come to Italy under the recent circular. This is a tiny number compared to the hundreds of thousands of people interested in coming,” said Palash Rahman, a Bangladeshi journalist based in the Italian city of Venice.
“We need to create more legal opportunities for Bangladeshi workers,” he concluded.
InfoMigrants is a news and information site for migrants to counter misinformation at every stage of their journey. This is a collaboration led by France Médias Monde, Deutsche Welle and the Italian press agency ANSA.