The recent cold-blooded massacre of 20 young men in Balochistan’s Turbat district is an unforgettable tragedy for their families. One must put oneself in their shoes to feel the pain that the parents must have felt when they received the bullet-riddled bodies of their beloved sons.
This is not the first time that families in Pakistan have had to receive the coffins of their loved ones targeted by border patrol in Iran, Turkey and other countries, or by kidnappers in some European countries. Every year, thousands of illegal settlers from Pakistan, Afghanistan and many African countries try to cross into Europe’s greener pastures in the hope of starting new and more prosperous lives. The reality – they find – is different and much harsher, to say the least.
During a recent visit to Pakistan, some young men in my village told me that through a friend’s acquaintance, an agent, had asked for Rs10 lakh to facilitate their migration to Greece via Iran and Turkey. The naive young boys said that the agent had told their friend that from Greece they could easily travel to Italy, France or Germany and would be able to earn back this amount in less than a year. Unfortunately, the fact is that this process is not so simple. The road to illegally migrate to Europe and get settled there is full of many hurdles and dangers.
There are innumerable stories of extreme hardships when one starts talking to many immigrants here in Germany. On the one hand, there is Mother Nature which is not kind in Balochistan, Iran, Turkey and in most countries in Europe. Walking for hours and hours in the hot sun during the days and braving the cold during the nights is normal, with just meager food and water to barely survive. On the other hand, there is always the danger of unexpected encounters with border patrol. “ “We were stripped and only our underwear was left when some Serbian border officials were asking for money and whatever we had”, one man recalled with a strange kind of humor, saying he had had kept some money hidden in the underwear.
A young man from KP has his own set of stories. He lived for three years in Italy and now has been waiting fruitlessly in Germany for the last three years in the hope of getting his ‘documents’. He says that if he were from Fata it may have been easier for him to get his documents on humanitarian grounds. I often tell these people that please to not upload their fancy photos on social media websites such as Facebook because it is also a motivating factor for many young men back home that the process of making it to Europe – and the life one has after that – is easy and enviable. Unfortunately, most people back home are not aware of the difficulties that these illegal immigrants encounter during their extremely precarious journey to their destinations. And then, even after they land here, a new of set of challenges awaits them. Even those who have learnt the language and have been living here for quite some time, find it difficult to get even petty jobs. And then it dawns on them that it will be difficult to support their families back home. In Rome and Paris, one can come across many immigrants who resort to selling mobile cards, toys and bottled water in places full of tourists. Life is not a bed of roses, particularly if one is unskilled in the developed parts of the world.
Human traffickers play with the lives of people from South Asia, and North African human traffickers send tens of thousands of migrants every year via the Mediterranean to Europe. Scores of boats sink because they are usually of very low quality or are filled to overcapacity; as a result, thousands die every year. According to some reports, more than 2,400 migrants drowned in the first half of 2017. In view of the unprecedented number of casualties, Amnesty International feared that 2017 could become “the deadliest year for the deadliest migration route in the world”.
There are several factors responsible for south-north migration: conflict, unemployment, social unrest, terror, religious oppression and lack of economic opportunities. For example, youth unemployment stands at around 50 percent in many African countries. With an average age of 18 years and a population set to double by 2050, the continent needs roughly 20 million new jobs each year for its young population, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Conflict, lack of good governance and political uncertainty result in a hostile business climate. In their very insightful book, ‘Why Nations Fail’, economists Daron Acemoglu and James A Robinson pinned down a key difference between developed countries in Europe/North America and developing countries in Africa/Latin America/Asia: the former have built inclusive institutions that reward initiative and performance, whereas the latter cling to extractive institutions that rob people of the fruits of their labour. The two academics argue that inclusive institutions lead to “a more equitable distribution of resources than extractive institutions….as such, they empower the citizens at large and thus create a more level playing field, even when it comes to the fight for power”.
In the prevalence of extractive institutions, local elites capture and monopolise resources, resulting in little distribution of wealth and opportunities and hindering growth and development. Overall, such a situation leads “to the persistence of extractive institutions and the persistence of the same elites in power together with the persistence of underdevelopment”. Giving the example of Sierra Leone, which has valuable natural resources, including diamonds and agricultural land, academics Baland, Moene and Robinson have argued that “had governance been better, Sierra Leone may not have become South Korea or Taiwan, but at worst it would have become Botswana”.
Coming back to the Turbat incident and many such tragic occurrences elsewhere, had there been a responsible and accountable government in Pakistan that was sensitive to the needs of its population to create reasonable employment opportunities for unskilled or semi-skilled youths, not many would opt for the journey Turbat’s unfortunate sons decided to take – which eventually brought such untold tragedy for their poor parents.
This reminds me of a scene from Sean O’Casey’s play ‘Juno and the Paycock’, written after the outbreak of the Irish Civil War in the early 1920s. When a neighbour tries to comfort Mrs Tancred after the death of her son by observing: “It’s a sad journey we’re going on, but God’s good and the Republic won’t be always down”. Mrs Tancred sighs: “Ah, what good is that to me now? Whether they’re up or down it won’t bring me darling boy from the grave… And I’ll go on living like a pauper. Ah, what’s the pain I suffered bringing him into the world to carry him to his cradle, to the pains I’m suffering now, carrying him out of the world to bring him to his grave”.
The writer is a postdoctoral research fellow at the German Development Institute at Bonn, Germany.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political uncertainty , Amnesty International , Border patrols , Immigrants , Unemployment , Accountability , Daron Acemoglu , James A Robinson , Balochistan , Iran