Illegal Immigrants in Greece: At the Mercy of the People Smugglers

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Andreas Ulrich in Nea Vyssa, Greece, MAy 24, 2012.

… A Business Worth Millions:

  • Oyud, Yousuf and the others have been traveling for months. They have made it across seas, through deserts and over mountain ranges. They have endured hunger, thirst, heat, cold and physical abuse — all in the hope of a better life.
  • Immigrants from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Syria and Africa have been crossing over the Evros by the thousands. Greece is the gateway to the West, and roughly nine out of every 10 people illegally entering Europe follow this route. On peak days, the figure can reach 500 people.  
  • Each of them has paid up to $10,000 (€7,950) for the journey. It is a business worth millions to the people smugglers, who play an indispensable role in the illegal entry into Europe. SPIEGEL accompanied the would-be immigrants on the last leg of their odyssey, learning not only about their motives and anxieties, but also about a trafficking system that is as brutal as it is well-organized.
  • It is a system that reaches all the way to Germany. Since the Greeks have not been able to seal their borders and are hopelessly overtaxed by the influx of people from Asia and Africa, Germany has had to cope with rising numbers of asylum seekers. In 2011, 45,741 people applied for asylum in Germany, an 11 percent increase over the previous year. In the same period, the number of people illegally entering Germany rose by 18.6 percent to reach 21,156. This has prompted German Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich to call for new restrictions on the border-free travel regime within the European Union as well as for the temporary reintroduction of border controls whenever a member state cannot sufficiently secure its borders.

Clean Cities and Beautiful Women: … //

… It Was Hell:

  • But their feelings of relief were short-lived. They had landed in Balochistan, the western province of Pakistan bordering Iran. Here, they camped out under open skies in a guarded and fenced-in camp. At this point, Oyud says, the people smugglers demanded $3,000 to continue the journey. “They beat us and threatened to sell us to the mafia, who would kill us and take out our organs,” he says. It took his sister two weeks to come up with the money and send it to Pakistan. “It was hell,” Oyud says.
  • Traveling only by night, they made their way across Iran. Oyud remembers making stops in Minab, Shiraz and Tehran. Then they saw mountains. Things got going again at 3 a.m., after only a few hours of sleep. They climbed up the mountain on foot, walking through the snow and ice in sneakers.
  • Soldiers appeared, shots were fired and Oyud heard screams. He buried himself deep in the snow and held his breath. When they started marching forward again, three men were missing from the group. They were dead.
  • Once they made it over the border and into Turkey, the Bangladeshis made their way to a remote house, where they were provided with fake passports. From there, they traveled in a tourist bus to Istanbul. During the 24-hour journey, the would-be immigrants passed through several checkpoints without problem. When they reached their destination, there were taxi drivers waiting and calling out numbers. Oyud’s number was 75. He finally ended up in the house of an Iranian in the huge Turkish metropolis.
  • To continue on the journey, Oyud had to pay $3,500 more. He says his sister sold her jewelry and house, leaving her with nothing.

Drowned at the Border: … //

… Questioned and Fingerprinted:

  • Back in Nea Vyssa, Oyud and Yousuf still have no idea of what to expect on the continent of their dreams. Cold and shivering, they wait in the market square until the police arrive with a delivery truck. The Bangladeshis climb into the cargo area and are transported to the transit camp in Filakio, while the man with the cut across his face is taken to a hospital.
  • Oyud and the others are questioned, photographed and fingerprinted. They are given a piece of paper bearing their names in Greek, which stipulates that they must leave the country after 30 days. Oyud cannot read it.
  • The procedure ends shortly after midday. Now they are in Europe — and free. There is a bus that runs directly from the camp to Athens. But since it costs €70, more than they have, the Bangladeshis decide to take the train. The next one will be heading to Athens the following day at 3:42 p.m., so Oyud and Yousuf spend the night in the train station in the nearby town of Alexandroupolis.
  • The train’s cars are full of refugees, and the trip last over 15 hours. Oyud and Yousuf fall asleep quickly. For the first time in a long while, they feel safe.

‘My Karma Has Abandoned Me’: … (full long text).

Comments are closed.