Three Bangladeshis from Cox's Bazar's Moheshkhali – Md Mozahar Mia, 55, Md Azizul Haque, 31, and Md Moksud Mia, 32 – are currently languishing in a Thai prison for over nine years.
They left home for Thailand in 2013 by sea through a middleman. When they reached the country, they were detained and jailed for not having any travel documents.
For the following six years, their families had no idea whether they were alive or not. In 2019, another victim of human trafficking who shared a cell with the three, informed their families about their plight. Since then, the families have been knocking on all doors to get them back, but their efforts so far have all gone in vain.
Homecoming not in sight
The messenger who informed the families of Mozahar and the others provided specific information regarding their status, including the name of the jail they were being held in and their identification number in the facility.
Their families pleaded with the foreign ministry through the Cox's Bazar District Commissioner to bring their relatives back home. Three years later, there has been little progress in this regard, as the families continue with their struggle.
"When my mother did not find any solution, she applied to the Thai embassy in Dhaka, but that too did not yield any results," Rasheda Khatun, daughter of Mozahar Mia, told The Business Standard over the phone.
"Now my mother is hospitalised. My older brother got married and has a separate family now. Mother is barely surviving while trying to provide for my younger brother and me," she added.
On Wednesday, the families of Mozahar, Azizul, and Moksud again applied to the Consular and Welfare Branch of the foreign ministry for assistance through the Brac Migration Programme.
The latest attempt to get their loved ones back has kindled new hope in them.
"An official has assured us they will take action in this regard very soon," said Nurul Kabir, brother of Moksud Mia.
Human trafficking in Thailand from Bangladesh came into the limelight in 2015 when a mass grave believed to be of Bangladeshi migrants, was discovered by the Thai police near a suspected trafficking camp on a hillside, deep in a southern Thai jungle.
At least 32 people were thought to be buried at the site.
Shariful Hasan, head of the Brac Migration Programme identifies human trafficking as the primary reason for the cruel fate of Bangladeshis in Thailand.
He said, "Many Bangladeshis are spending years in prisons in Thailand without identification, even after completing their sentences, only because of lack of coordination."
According to an estimate by the Ministry of Expatriate Welfare, there were more than 2,000 Bangladeshi prisoners in Thailand alone in 2015.