12 Apr 2019

Bangladeshis trafficked to Vanuatu want resettlement in New Zealand or Australia

10:12 am on 12 April 2019

A group of 101 Bangladeshi human trafficking victims in Vanuatu want to be resettled in New Zealand or Australia.

A group of Bangladeshi men stuck in limbo in Port Vila.

Photo: Supplied

The migrants were brought to Vanuatu over the past two years by a businessman who they claim tortured and enslaved them on arrival.

Rights groups said four people had been charged with trafficking and are before the Vanuatu Supreme Court.

A spokesperson for the migrants, Shahin Khan, said they would rather be resettled than work in Vanuatu, where there was a shortage of jobs for locals.

Mr Khan said among the group were chefs, electricians, plumbers and other technical experts who could benefit New Zealand and Australia.

"Whatever the experience we have, we might get these kind of jobs so we can support our families. We still very badly miss our families. Kids have stopped their schooling and they are starving. It's been almost two years for some of our guys and it's a horrible situation back at home."

Shahin Khan said the next court date had been set for Sunday.

Shahin Khan (front in black tshirt) with the group

Shahin Khan (front in black tshirt) with the group Photo: Shahin Khan

Earlier this week, a home ministry official in Bangladesh, Abu Bakar Siddique, said a team from the nearest high commission in Australia would assist with the migrants' return to Bangladesh.

In interviews, migrants have said they would be killed over outstanding debts to loan sharks if they returned.

Mr Khan said an official with the high commission in Canberra, Nahid Afroz, told him by phone on Thursday that she would visit the group on 22 April.

In an email, Ms Afroz said: "At this stage, we can only say that we are working on it and we will start the process soon".

Mr Khan said he had also approached New Zealand's high commissioner to Vanuatu, Jonathan Schwass, for help but had not heard back.

New Zealand has sent nearly $NZ7000 in support for the migrants, which went towards the installation of a water tank and basic hygiene supplies.

The migrants are being housed by Vanuatu's government, with locals pitching in to provide them with food.

A group of Bangladeshi men stuck in limbo in Port Vila

Photo: Shahin Khan