The promise of a better life in West Asia is proving too hard to resist for scores of desperately poor and illiterate Bangladeshi youth, who are embarking on the journey to the promised land via India and Pakistan, led on by West Bengal-based traffickers who charge them anywhere between Rs 55,000 and Rs 75,000.
More often than not, the would-be immigrant finds himself stranded either on the India-Pakistan border in Punjab or in Karachi, with no money and no identification, let alone a passport. In the last five years, 67 such Bangladeshis have been arrested by the Border Security Force (BSF) from Punjab, while trying to cross over to Pakistan.
The modus operandi of the traffickers is simple. The promise of a ‘bright future’ is enough to lure the youths stuck in a cycle of poverty that they desperately want to leave behind. So even if it means parting with their life savings and borrowing more money, the youths manage to pay up, only to be taken by the touts to the border and told to cross over.
According to BSF figures, in the last five years, 67 Bangladeshi nationals have been arrested on the Punjab side of the Indo-Pak border, while getting into Pakistan. In 2009, 20 Bangladeshi nationals were arrested, in 2010 the number was 14, 20 were arrested in 2011 and 12 last year. Till May 1 this year, one Bangladeshi had been arrested.
During joint interrogation by the state police, IB and other agencies, the youths who had been caught admitted paying Rs 55,000 to Rs 75,000 each to their handlers, who brought them to the border. Many said before actually attempting to cross over to Pakistan, they stayed in the open spaces in and around Golden Temple in Amritsar for a few days, eating from the langar.
“During interrogation, one of the Bangladeshi nationals told me that he wanted to go to Dubai in search of a job as he had lost everything back home due to a natural calamity. He said he crossed over to India and was then taken to Mumbai via Kolkata and from there he was told he would be sent to Dubai via Karachi,” a cop said.
Before embarking on their journey, the youths are tutored by the “agents” to claim that they are from Myanmar, should they be caught. The irony is that none of the brokers have ever been arrested as they are clever enough to flee in the nick of time, leaving their hapless victims to fend for themselves, armed with just their names, and no papers that could prove their nationality.
According to Punjab Police, nothing objectionable is ever recovered from their possession and the youths are booked under various sections of Foreigners Act and Indian Passport Act.