Travel agents in Punjab are dumping youths in Libya

Tarsem Singh (24) of Banga village in Nawanshahr district of Punjab had dreamt of a successful and comfortable life in Europe, for which his father sold his one-acre land and paid a travel agent Rs 6 lakh to send him to Germany.

However, Singh was instead sent to Libya, from where he crossed the jungles and the Mediterranean Sea, only to get trapped in an illegally constructed room at a construction site in Gozo Island with six others from his native state.

With an expired tourist visa, he doesn’t even seek help from the authorities, fearing arrest. The Libyan agent with whom he travelled from Libya to Malta is demanding Rs 2 lakh to send him to Italy, which his father can’t arrange.

He is now being forced to go to Syria where he would be working in an arms factory, even though he plans to cross the sea and reach Italy.

Singh is not alone; there are among dozens of young boys from Punjab who paid travel agents huge money to land in Europe, boarded flights to Europe, but somehow landed in Malta.

This human trafficking industry, worth millions of dollars, is flourishing because of lack of awareness amongst Punjabi youth. Landing in Malta, they can’t even have proper jobs because of tourist visas. A rigid bureaucratic centre doesn’t help, and many such boys are stuck in detention centres after getting arrested.

Also read: The horrifying story of a trafficked girl and the brave people who saved her

A Punjab-based NGO called HelpingHapless is working for such youths trapped in foreign countries, having brought back over 100.

"Owing to its easy connectivity with big European countries, many unscrupulous agents are using this route for human trafficking. I currently know cases of two Punjabi youths stuck in Malta. They are in a pitiable condition and want to come back. Many Punjabi youths are stuck there, but we do not have any way to contact them," Amanjot Kaur Ramoowalia, co-founder of HelpingHapless, told TNN.

(Image source SocNCharlotte)
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