Trafficking. Welcome to realityby nadir noori
Traffic: this word doesn’t necessarily describe an illegal action; it describes the transportation of goods or passengers, or the transmission of messages and signals. But when it comes to trafficking, and specifically human trafficking, it’s not the same anymore; we are talking about the illegal transportation of human beings. Human trafficking is currently a hot issue and this is why I decided to share some personal experiences related to the topic.
I should make clear right from the start that the refugees that arrive in Europe on a daily basis have no other choice than to illegally enter one of the host countries. When you are a teenager and you decide to leave your family and set out on a journey through unknown mountains, you face real challenges. It is very easy to lose strength and become prey of the wild animals of the region, without anyone ever knowing what happened to you.
The discussions that I’ve had with friends who have been through such experiences are many and, unfortunately, all are very similar. They are experiences one doesn’t forget; one remembers them as if they took place yesterday. When you literally run for your life to escape from bombings, you don’t have the luxury of thinking about which is the legal way to run away and which is the illegal one. You just run. Run. Run either on your own or with your family, and you just try not to look back. This is now your reality, a reality I experienced, a reality my friends experienced, and, unfortunately, a reality many people are still experiencing.
Once, I met an Afghan who wanted to get an underage member of his family to a European country. When I asked him to explain why he chose this illegal way, his answer was more than foreseeable: “If I apply for family reunion, it’s not sure it’s going to be granted, and if it’s rejected, I will know approximately a year after. One year of waiting under extreme psychological pressure. Unfortunately, the traffickers are considered the fast track procedure. I know it’s going to cost me a lot of money, but at least I will have tried without losing any more years of my life.” Although it’s an answer I have heard many times, each time I hear it coming out of a new mouth, I am equally shocked.
But let’s have a look at the other side. In my journey, I happened to meet quite a lot of people that knew how to help you cross from one country to another. I asked lots of times why they risk their lives doing something illegal, but the answer I got was always irrefutable, allowing for no further questions.
“Neither we nor the people that are trying to cross the borders now have any other choice. The legal way is time-consuming and when you don’t know whether you’ll be alive in the next five minutes, it makes no sense waiting for the authorities to carry out the required procedures. On the other hand, neither do we, the ones who help, have any other choice either. It’s been years since we’ve come here and still the system has done nothing to integrate us into society. We are humans, we have needs to meet, so trafficking is an opportunity for us to solve some of our problems faster. It’s a risky way, but we have no other option.”
The social integration system in Greece is practically non-existant, thus leaving these people in the hands of fate. They are people with the same issues and concerns that we all have with the right to live a regular everyday life. But when they are left in the hands of fate, they are forced to seek alternative means of survival.
I have been a refugee for almost 22 years, I have passed through Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Greece, and I have never seen a shop with a sign “come in, we’ll help you cross the border”, I have never seen traffickers searching for victims. It is the refugees who seek out the traffickers. And who is the trafficker? It’s the refugee that has unsuccessfully tried innumerable times to leave the country and he now knows the best way to go about it. He has run out of money and now trafficking is a chance for him to get the required cash, so that he can try once again to cross the border.
Do you want human trafficking to stop? I want it to stop too, more than anything. So then, let’s have a closer look. In order to put an end to it, people should not have a need to leave their countries, their lives should not be in danger to begin with. Which means no wars, and therefore no interests. How nice would it be if we could only settle our differences through dialogue and how nice would it be if only host countries would consider us as human beings, and develop a decent system for social integration and close, once and for all, the window of trafficking! They know how to do it, that’s for sure. The question is: do they want to?
Yes, in an ideal world the solution would be feasible, if the system had nothing to gain from human trafficking. However, welcome to reality…
Written by Nadir Noori | Translated by Eirini Chatzikoumi | Edited by Gigi Papoulias
photo credits: Nadir Noori