In a heart-wrenching turn of events, the dreams of eleven young individuals from Punjab and Haryana to embark on a journey to Italy have tragically transformed into a horrifying nightmare, as they find themselves confined behind bars in war-torn Libya. Their ill-fated predicament can be attributed to the treacherous “donkey route” they took to reach Italy back in February, only to be abandoned by unscrupulous travel agents along the way.
The term “donkey route” refers to an unlawful method of entering a foreign country by navigating through multiple intermediary nations.
These unfortunate youths claim that they were coerced into serving as bonded laborers in Libya by the so-called “donkers,” who transport people across different countries. The “donkers” allegedly demanded additional sums of money from the youths to facilitate their onward journey to Greece. As the desperate youngsters lacked the necessary funds, they were forced to toil as laborers in Libya, enduring physical abuse and violence at the hands of their captors.
It was only when the victims discovered that they had been sold to an agency as laborers that they mustered the courage to escape their captors. Shortly thereafter, however, the Libyan authorities apprehended them and incarcerated them on charges of being “illegal immigrants.” One of the youths recounted, “Thirteen individuals had initially boarded a flight to Dubai from Amritsar. One of us managed to evade the clutches of the travel agents, while another reportedly succumbed to the torture inflicted by the ‘donkers’.”
According to official documents, each of the eleven youths had entrusted approximately Rs 11 lakh to travel agents in Punjab. Little did they know that they would be compelled to part with even more money at each destination along their perilous journey, ultimately leading to their entrapment in Libya.
Reports have surfaced that prior to their arrest, the youths reached out to Punjab Rajya Sabha MP Vikramjit Sahney on May 27, seeking his assistance.
When questioned about the current situation of the victims, Sahney affirmed, “My team maintains constant communication with the boys and the embassy to expedite their repatriation to India. I am extending full financial support to these youths, including airfare, accommodation in secure facilities, clothing, and footwear.”
This distressing tale serves as a stark reminder of the perils faced by those who fall prey to unscrupulous agents and embark on perilous journeys in pursuit of their dreams. It underscores the urgent need for increased vigilance and support mechanisms to protect vulnerable individuals from falling victim to such harrowing ordeals. The authorities must work diligently to secure the safe return of these young souls, allowing them to rebuild their shattered lives and dream anew.