GUJRAT: The deportation of a number of illegal Pakistani immigrants and ‘stringent’ measures to prevent further flow of human flood through the sea coast bordering Turkey and Greece have brought many tales to the fore.
As most ‘emigrants’ belong to Gujrat and surrounding areas, this correspondent got an opportunity to talk to a few of those who have recently been sent back home.
Deported from Turkey in recent weeks, a lad revealed that a good number of human traffickers were mainly operating from Istanbul city of Turkey, with their “sub-agents” who would only book the clients and collect the settled amount (around Rs300,000 from each person) in Gujrat, Phalia, Mandi Bahauddin and Gujranwala.
The practice of illegally crossing the borders of Iran, Turkey and then Greece to enter Europe has been going on for decades in Gujranwala region and the authorities in Pakistan have failed to curb it. It witnessed a sharp increase during the last four to six months after Germany and other European countries had announced asylum for the Syrian, Iraqi and Afghani refugees and, according to an estimate, at least 35,000 Pakistani nationals have so far crossed into Europe in the disguise of Syrian refugees.
Istanbul is ‘hub’ of many Pakistani traffickers
He said even the refugees from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan were being operated by the human traffickers belonging to Gujranwala region and “the so-called crackdown on human traffickers has not curtailed the business.”
“I had been offered a free ride up to Europe by the agent who had earlier booked my case for Greece, if I could arrange at least three more clients,” he said and added that his father had handed over the settled amount to a police official in Mandi Bahauddin district who used to book the clients on behalf of his brother, a human trafficker settled in Turkey and Spain.
After the western countries’ focus towards the immigrants had been shifted to civil war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan nationals due to a sharp influx of refugees from these countries, he said, the restrictions at Turkey-Greece border had compelled the Pakistani nationals travelling towards Europe to change their national identity.
Sharing his story, Shan Ahmed, who belongs to Gujrat city and had been deported from Turkey around two weeks ago, said he and around 100 other illegal Pakistanis mainly belonging to Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot and Gujranwala had introduced themselves as the nationals of Myanmar and Kashmir when they were caught by the authorities in the waters of Greece after crossing the limits of Turkish side of the ocean.
“One of the detained men who belonged to Sialkot district had revealed to the Turkish authorities that all of them belonged to Pakistan since he knew the Turkish language very well for being settled as a factory worker near Istanbul for more than two years. Had he not revealed the nationality of the group of detained people, the authorities would have set us free after brief interrogation, thus, giving another chance to those who wanted to try their luck once more through crossing the border,” said Ahmed.
He said they were all deported by the authorities after being kept in confinement for around a month at a camp, where the authorities told them that Pakistan was not among the war-zone countries and did have a better economic condition compared to Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, that’s why Pakistanis were being deported.
Asked why the immigrants from the countries like India and Iran, which also have better economic conditions and are not among the troubled zones, are not being deported, he said the Turkish authorities responded that “Pakistanis come in large numbers and groups, whereas the people from the other Southeast Asian countries come in small groups.”
Since the Greece economy has deteriorated in recent years, there has been a decline in the rates for clients as previously the traffickers used to charge around Rs600,000, which is now half of it. This means opportunities for the locals to try their luck with a ‘minimum investment’ and chances of crossing into Europe and then settle with the help of their close kin who are already settled in various European countries.
Most Pakistanis, who had recently crossed into Greece and Germany, got settled in Italy and Spain with the assistance of their kin settled there.
Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2015