When the world is gradually learning to live with Covid-19, it seems that human traffickers have also started taking advantage of the ease in travel restrictions.
The death toll from a migrant boat disaster in Lake Van in eastern Turkey last month has risen to 60. The boat is believed to have been carrying illegal migrants from Iran. This is not the first such tragic incident. In the past, illegal migrants from Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and other countries have regularly tried to enter Europe via Turkey.
A few days ago, someone forwarded a video clip on WhatsApp in which local youngsters of Gujarat were interviewed before traveling to Europe illegally. The unfortunate travelers were not aware that it was a reflection of their last moments. According to reports, all these illegal migrants died. Recently, a foreign news service has aired a report on the plight of a 75-year-old Pakistani national living in Spain. The senior citizen, who succeeded in arriving in Spain illegally ten years ago, is now forced to earn his livelihood from roadside garbage due to lack of legal documents. This demonstrates that those who go to Europe illegally include not only young people but also the elderly.
It has been commonly believed that human traffickers use land and sea routes to enter Iran or Oman for moving towards Europe. However, in the age of technology, human traffickers have also adopted many innovative tactics to achieve their nefarious goals. They are becoming experts in forgery, and providing fake travel documents in return of money.
Turkey and the former Soviet states of Central Asia have a special affiliation with Pakistan. That’s why there are comparatively soft immigration laws for Pakistani nationals. Unfortunately, some anti-social elements are also trying to take advantage of this situation, by visiting such friendly countries on legal visas and then trying to enter Europe illegally from there.
Recently, the Pakistani embassy in Kyrgyzstan has warned about certain groups of human traffickers. According to the press release, certain Kyrgyzstan based groups are using Facebook and other social media to promise visas for Canada and Australia, Japan and various European countries.
Reportedly, some human traffickers, who obviously have mala-fide motives, are also using various African countries. However, there is a growing international pressure to crack down on human trafficking. If this situation continues, it seems that the doors for Pakistani nationals will also close very soon in Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Turkey, Ghana and other such countries.
In order to exploit the young generation, some human traffickers have also allegedly opened offices under the cover of overseas education consultancy. While pursuing the dreams of a bright future, the majority of people have lost their money to go abroad. Many have lost their precious lives while entering Europe illegally. Most tragically, many talented girls find no option but to turn to prostitution and other immoral professions in foreign lands just for the sake of their survival.
The FIA, no doubt, is making various efforts to break the human trafficking network. Special check posts have been set up along the Pak-Iran border and the coastal areas to curb human trafficking. Those involved in human trafficking have also been jailed for 14 years, once caught. There are numerous cases of human trafficking pending in various courts. However, the challenge of overcoming human trafficking is still not achieved yet.
In my view, we need to change our social attitudes. We must explore various ways of earning livelihood in our own country with honour and dignity. Our media must broadcast special public awareness programs so that people can learn from the tragic fate of immigrants and safeguard their loved ones.
The writer is a member of the National Assembly and patron-in-chief of the Pakistan Hindu Council.