The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

People smuggling is a lucrative business for smugglers. For the migrants, it often ends in tragedy.

People smuggling is one of the most pervasive social issues affecting Pakistan. Dinghies are small boats often used by smugglers (dunkers) to illegally transport Pakistani migrants across borders. In Pakistan, these dinghies are commonly used to smuggle migrants across the Arabian Sea to neighboring countries like Iran and Oman.

According to the recent BBC documentary, “Human Trafficking: How Pakistanis get smuggled via ‘Dunki’ (Dinghies),” the process of getting smuggled usually starts with the smugglers making contact with potential clients through word of mouth or through agents. The clients are usually individuals who are looking to leave Pakistan in search of better economic opportunities, to escape persecution or other forms of danger.

Muddasir Ali, devastated by his experience of crossing the border through smugglers, narrates the documentary. “I have tried to cross Iran’s border ten times, the worst memory I can recall is that our dunker left us midway after telling us the location and instructing us to just keep running straight from that point and not stop no matter what. We were simply following his instructions and all of a sudden, the Iranian armed men started firing ceaselessly at us, it felt like we are in a warzone and that this is the end.”

Once the clients have contacted the smugglers, they are asked to gather at a pre-determined location along the coast, often at night to avoid detection. The smugglers then load the migrants onto the dinghies, which are usually small, overcrowded, and unseaworthy.

These dinghies are often not safe and lack proper safety equipment, making the journey very dangerous. The smugglers then navigate the dinghies through the rough seas, often at great risk to the lives of the migrants. Many of these journeys end in tragedy, with the dinghies capsizing or sinking. The smugglers themselves are often unscrupulous individuals who are only interested in making money and do not care about the safety of their passengers. The migrants have to endure severe physical torture throughout their journey and are beaten mercilessly if they are caught by authorities.

Muddasir Ali further adds: “We were left stranded on a mountaintop with no food and water for three days and nights. We were around 60-65 people, and it was freezing cold at that time. The situation had worsened to an extent that I had to eat the mud lying on the dry, rocky mountains and that was the moment when I just wanted to die. Neither do I want to go back to my village, nor ahead, but simply wished that my life ends end here.”

It is pertinent to note that underage children are increasingly becoming victims of human smugglers sometimes leaving home without telling their parents or guardians. Even if the dinghies reach their destination, the migrants are usually left to fend for themselves in a foreign land, with no support or resources. They often end up living in poverty and face further hardships.

It is important to note that smuggling people across borders is illegal and dangerous, and those who engage in such activities can face serious legal consequences. It is important for governments to work towards creating better economic opportunities and address the root causes of why people feel compelled to leave their home countries.

Fatima Pasha Mughal is studying Social Sciences at SZABIST, Islamabad. Fatima is exploring the dynamics of human society and social relationships. Through this multi-disciplinary field, her aim is to understand how people interact with each other, behave, develop as a culture, and influence the world.