Six of the eight labourers from West Bengal who were sent to Tanzania jail for allegedly travelling without valid documents are now suffering from acute malaria.  The Bengali labourers, residents of Paschim Harindanga under Hanshkhali police station limits in Nadia, were allegedly promised a lucrative salary and sent to Eastern Africa’s Tanzania for doing carpenters’ work in October by an agent from the same village, but they were detained on arrival at the airport there as their documents were forged.

They were later produced in a Tanzanian court in Dar es Salaam city and handed out six months of imprisonment for illegal entry. Later, the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) intervened based on a complaint lodged by the National Anti-Trafficking Committee and they were brought back to Kolkata on 7 December.

“During the stay in Tanzania jail, the labourers became ill and sick. After returning to their homes, most of them are undergoing treatment in the hospital as they are suffering from acute malaria,” said a member of Anti Trafficking Committee.

Malaria is one of the communicable diseases accounting for a major health burden in Tanzania. More than 90 per cent of the population is at risk of transmission.

The Tanzania Demographic and Health Survey–Malaria Indicator Survey (TDHS–MIS) indicates that the disease has rebound in the country as prevalence was less than 10 per cent in 2012. The main vector species are Anopheles gambiae sensu stricto that has currently been outnumbered by Anopheles arabiensis, and Anopheles funestus is also active in some areas. The dominant parasite is Plasmodium falciparum.

“We are very worried about the disease. Most of us are undergoing treatment in the hospital. During the stay in the jail in Tanzania, we were bitten by mosquitoes. In the jail, we had passed some terrible moments,” said Subrata Mondol, a carpenter who had fallen into the trafficking trap and gone to Tanzania.

Subrata said they fell in the trap laid by sub-agent Srimanta Biswas who promised them a lucrative salary in Tanzania.

“We reached Tanzania on 27 October from Mumbai. We were promised visa on arrival. But, when no one came there, the immigration officials detained us. The officials on request contacted agents and company authorities, but they denied everything that we explained before them. They then sent us to the Central police where we stayed for two days. Later, we were produced before the Tanzania court where the judge remanded us in jail custody for three days. After three days, we were again produced before the court where the judge sentenced us to imprisonment for six months,” he said.

He also said one Sheikh Murtaza, an elderly person who knew Hindi, helped them. He also helped to release them from jail and he had first informed their family members over the phone.

The family members then contacted the National Anti Trafficking Committee who then took up the issue and wrote to the MEA.