NEWS

Threats and violence from people traffickers

Every year thousands of people leave Asia and the Middle East to travel through Turkey to Greece. A little-known side of this movement is the extent of the extortion that people traffickers commit against illegal immigrants and their families to secure payment for the trip. From accounts given by migrants themselves to non-governmental organizations, the coast guard and the police, the cost of the journey ranges from 2,000 to 5,000 euros per person, depending on the point of departure, the destination and the means of transport. So the agreement is usually either that they pay later, when they have established themselves at their destination and start making money, or that their relatives pay as soon as the immigrant reaches the destination. It is already a large sum and the difficulties facing illegal immigrants in the new country make it hard for them to pay it. The threats, intimidation and violence soon begin. Sometimes the traffickers detain the immigrants against their will until their relatives pay the agreed amount, and sometimes more. Many such gangs have been found in Greece. They usually comprise members from the same country as the immigrants and often others from the countries through which the immigrants are transported, such as Turkey and Greece. Greek police caught a group of Pakistanis who had been bringing in people illegally from Pakistan to Greece, then kidnapping them and holding them to ransom for 2,000 euros a head. An Iraqi gang doing the same thing was caught when an immigrant escaped and went to the police. In October 2005, a gang of Iraqis and Turks kidnapped a young Iraqi and demanded 3,500 euros for having taken him from Turkey to Alexandroupolis. Police found the gang members to be in possession of equipment for forging travel documents. And in July 2007, police broke up a Bangladeshi gang that had used threats and beatings to extort 4,000 euros per person from immigrants they had smuggled into Greece.