• 30 Mar - 05 Apr, 2024
  • Mag The Weekly
  • Feature

According to World Bank statistics, 9.2% of the world's population lives in extreme poverty, with a daily income ranging from $1.90 to $2.15. Meanwhile, 43% of global wealth is owned by only 1% of the world's population. Additionally, 71% of the world's population is facing the challenge of low income and are forced to work for less than $10 a day.

According to the United Nations, over 400 million people, or 5% of the world's population, are forced to live below the poverty line. This includes citizens of countries such as India, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Congo, and Bangladesh. In addition, 13% of the world's population lacks access to basic electricity, while 40% of the world's population does not have access to clean fuel for cooking. Shockingly, more than 22,000 children die every day in the world due to poverty, and more than 2.2 billion children live in poverty.

Looking at these statistics, we can estimate that in most countries of the world, the poor and middle class make up a significant portion of the population, and in most countries, someone, somewhere is making an effort to improve their lives. Since its inception, Pakistan has been going through a "delicate turning point" (nazuk moor in Urdu), which has become so prolonged that it is not even close to ending. At present, Pakistan's economic crisis has worsened other crises, and there seems to be no end in sight.

In a significant upsurge, more than 860,000 Pakistanis embarked on journeys abroad in pursuit of employment opportunities in 2023, marking the highest figure recorded since 2015.

These numbers represent only those Pakistanis who, based on their higher education or skills, meet the requirements of other countries and pay the visa fee to migrate legally. However, there is a large number of people, including Pakistanis, who attempt to cross the borders of developed countries illegally. At the time of this writing, some people may be attempting to embark on "Dunki" by entering the jungles, deserts, or seas connected to any European country to reach their destination.

“Dunki” can be understood in simple terms as a name given by agent mafia to illegally facilitate the travel of any Western country, especially a European country, while those who carry out this work are called “Dunker'”. As we told readers at the beginning of this article not only Pakistan but also a large number of people around the world are in trouble due to poverty, so the business of “Dunki” or human smuggling is on the rise in all underdeveloped countries of the world. Although this work has been going on for many decades, social media has given it more momentum. In particular, many people associated with the agent mafia on YouTube pretend to be experts in getting people to European countries, as well as pretending to be kind-hearted and wanting the best for Pakistanis and luring them into the trap. The main target of these individuals is young people who are shown the colorful life of Europe, income in Euros, and other lush gardens. Many people connected to this network also show off their extravagant lifestyles on YouTube.

In the 1980s and 1990s, it was quite easy to travel from Quetta via Iran, then Turkey, and from there to Greece or some other European country.

In the past few years, "Dunki" has been a favorite target of people who want to enter Europe illegally. In 2023, over 8,565 people lost their lives on illegal migration routes globally, marking the deadliest year on record, as reported by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) through its

Missing Migrants Project.
The dangerous route of the “Dunki” is still active, but it is a journey of death. This dangerous land route of the “Dunki” connects Pakistan's province of Balochistan to Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and then European countries like Greece, Georgia, and Bulgaria, for people of this region including Pakistan and India. Greece, Georgia, and Bulgaria have tightened their borders so much that they shoot at sight and do not inform anyone, while other European countries are also considering this covert policy and some are even taking action secretly to prevent their countries’ systems from being destroyed.

People from Pakistan's cities, especially those from Punjab province, are making illegal attempts to reach Europe by one “Dunki” after another. The highest number of these people belong to the cities of Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Sialkot, Sheikhupura, Hafizabad, and others. The horrifying fact is that a large number of parents in Punjab's cities are sending their 13 to 20-year-old boys on this deadly journey of death, thinking "Who is living a luxurious life in Pakistan? Once my son reaches Europe, fate will change."

Before the start of this journey, a “dunker”(human trafficker) at the border conducts a comprehensive search of all individuals and burns all legal documents so that their identity cannot be established in case of being caught or killed. Some people succeed in hiding some currency or keeping their identity card with them, but the number is very low. This is because the behavior of dunkers is now inhuman as they know that these people are at their mercy. Before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, the original journey of “Dunki” also started in Karachi. Those who dunked were taken from Karachi to the two districts of Makran Division, Kech, and Gawadar, and then to Iran. However, the route was changed by the Dunkers. Now, the dunkers first gather their prey in Quetta. There are also places in Quetta where those who dunk are auctioned to agents for border crossing. Those dunkers who become part of this auction are responsible for hiding their prey in the bus's toolbox and dropping them to the nearby areas of Iran. Sometimes, those who have paid their agent more money are also left near the border in a dunker’s bus or car, and they are "set up" at checkpoints along the way.

The border of more than nine hundred kilometers separates five districts of Balochistan from Iran, so human smugglers bring them into Iran from these areas. These districts include Chagai, Washuk, Panjgur, Kech, and Gwadar. The "Mand Bullo" area on the border of Balochistan is a preferred route for entering Iran illegally. People are also smuggled into Iran from Washuk, which is connected to Chagai, and from the border areas of Panjgur district. These border areas are extremely difficult to pass and are comprised of tumultuous paths, making their monitoring extremely challenging.

However, the real challenge of hitting “Dunki” begins in the border areas connected to Iran, and after entering Iran, this problem becomes severe. People who successfully avoid Pakistani Border Forces and reach the

Iranian border now faces Iranian border security. Iranian border officials fire on illegal vehicles and people entering the country illegally, which can result in some being killed or injured. If they can escape being shot or caught, then they have to travel long and arduous journeys on foot, sometimes to Turkey.

Dunkers use cars at very few places because they fear being caught. Throughout this entire journey, dunkers serve as a point of contact that transports illegal immigrants from one point to another. Most dunkers will only give directions and then return home, without thinking if anyone will make it to their destination or not. In this long journey, besides hunger and thirst, one also faces animals in the deserts and forests. Hundreds of young people die in the deserts of Iran from heat or starvation. Dunker drivers never take any injured or sick person with them, instead they leave them to die in the wilderness. Then, no one ever finds their bodies and no one ever knows what happened to them. Only the dunker knows where the illegal migrant is at the moment, how much money they need, and how much more money they have to pay to cross into Turkey. This is all known to the agent. Once the journey begins, at various places, they are asked to pay bribes and then they are called to their homes to demand more money, and videos of violence are sent as blackmail. Entering Europe from Turkey's border is the most difficult, which can take several months, and if someone tells the agent that they want to return to their country exhausted, they are told to get more money from their home, then the return journey will begin. Agents in Pakistan receive up to five hundred thousand rupees in advance to transport such people from Turkey to Iran's border, and if someone doesn't pay, they are sold to criminals.

What is the new route for “Dunki”?
The human smuggling mafia has targeted Italy, Malta, and Greece via a new route recently, with Italy being particularly vulnerable. To evade law enforcement, agents opt for sea routes, where the risks are lower compared to those facilitating illegal immigration. This new route originates from Pakistan, passing through the UAE to Libya, then onwards to Malta or Italy. Agents in Pakistan deceive individuals by promising legal air travel to Europe and obtaining passports and UAE visas to bolster confidence. The cost for this journey, known as "Dunki," ranges from 1.5 to 2.5 million Pakistani rupees varying based on the individual's perceived value. Due to Pakistan's economic challenges, agents now demand Dunki payments in dollars. Upon arrival in Dubai, individuals are temporarily housed in hotels, sending reassuring pictures to loved ones, while visas for Libya are arranged. Before departure to Libya, agents collect the full Dunki payment. The individual is flown to Libya, where the deal takes a dark turn. The Pakistani agent hands them over to a local Libyan agent, who arranges passage to Europe for a fee. In this scenario, Pakistani agents employ additional deceptive tactics, charging individuals up to 25 lakhs while paying the local agent in Libya 1,000 to 1,500 dollars per person for passage to Europe. This amount roughly translates to 280,000 to 400,000 Pakistani rupees.

After receiving the money through Hundi, the dunkers present in Libya inform them that they will not go ahead in an airplane but in a small boat to Europe.

The agents in Libya load 30 to 40 people on a boat that has a capacity of 8 to people, and 400 people on a boat that has a capacity of 50 people and send them towards Europe. However, as easy as it is to write this, the reality is much more difficult. The chances of death for the people who put the dinghies in the sea are 99 percent, but the agents present the 1 percent chance of survival as a 100 percent possibility.

In 2023, Italy's government escalated efforts to deter migration by obstructing nongovernmental rescue groups, cooperating with rights-abusing countries on migration, and implementing regressive asylum practices. By mid-September 2023, government statistics showed that over 127,200 people, including 11,630 unaccompanied children, arrived in Italy by sea, nearly doubling the figures from the same period in 2022. Despite these setbacks, the government approved increased quotas for work visas across various economic sectors for 2023-2025.

However, it is important to acknowledge that only the deceased truly understand the reality of the grave, and European nations no longer tolerate any threat to their security leading to unrest. All European countries are collaborating to address this issue and are expected to regain control soon. In Pakistan, many parents refrain from reporting missing children to the police because human smugglers manipulate them with false promises of returning the children in exchange for money or through threats.

While government institutions worldwide, including Pakistan, are working to combat human smuggling, ineffective laws pose significant obstacles. In Punjab, In Pakistan, where most smugglers operate, little progress is made at the provincial level. Even if federal agencies or border security apprehend smugglers, they are often granted bail, enabling them to resume their illegal activities upon release. Therefore, stringent laws are imperative to ensure perpetrators cannot obtain bail and are appropriately punished.