June 14, 2024

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What is the ‘Donkey Route’ & Why Some Indians Take Dangerous Road to ‘American Dream’?

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Dunki, the film starring Shah Rukh Khan to be released on December 21, is based on the “donkey route”, a popular but illegal immigration technique used to enter countries like the United States, UK and Canada.

The Raj Kumar Hirani’s movie, also starring Taapsee Pannu, Vicky Kaushal, and Boman Irani, depict people driven by the promise of better life, opportunities and living standards take the difficult route to settle in the ‘first world’ countries.

The ‘donkey route’ taken by youngsters in Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat involves a lot of risks as they have to go days without any food, traversing through forests, rivers and on seas avoiding authorities. The illegal route, despite the threats and often undesired ends, is popular among youths, who want to go for better life and pursuing the American Dream.

Shah Rukh Khan, at a recent event in Dubai, explaining the meaning of the title said, “Dunki is an illegal trip a lot of people take to get out of their country across borders all over the world. It is called the Donkey travels.”

‘Dunki’, a regional pronunciation of donkey, originated from a Punjabi idiom that means “hopping from one place to another”. It is a dangerous immigration route taken by several lakhs of Indians to reach countries like the US, the UK or Europe.

According to data compiled by US Customs and Border Protection, around 42,000 migrants from India have crossed the southern border illegally between October 2022 to September 2023. Since November 2022, around 97,000 Indians have tried to enter the US illegally and arrested by the American authorities.

While youngsters from Punjab head mostly to Canada, youths from Haryana have the US as their prime destination.

The illegal path proves costly not just in terms of the risks involved but also financially. A donkey trip to the US cost anywhere between Rs 15-40 lakhs and can go as high as Rs 70 lakh. The higher the money, the lesser the troublesome journey. It is about Rs 15 lakh for Portugal, Rs 25 lakh for Germany, and Rs 45 lakh for the US.

First Leg of Donkey Route

The first step in the most popular donkey route from India is to reach a Latin American country like Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela. The reason behind choosing a Latin American country for transit is that reaching these countries is easier for Indians, according to a report in The Indian Express.

Not only do these countries provide visa on arrival for Indians, those requiring the pre-arrival visas easily give tourist visas to Indians. Also, the agents that manage the illegal migration are based in these countries where they have ‘links’ for illegal trafficking.

Alternate Route: In some cases, the agents arrange a direct visa for Mexico from Dubai. But directly landing in Mexico is considered dangerous as there is fear of arrest by local authorities. So, most agents land their clients in a Latin American country and then take them to Colombia.

Crossing Panama’s forest

After arriving in Colombia, the migrants enter Panama, where the route involves crossing the Darién Gap, a dangerous forest between the two countries. The risks include lack of clean water, wild animals and criminal gangs which can lead to robbery and even rape, the report said.

In one of the reported cases, Jitendra and his group from Haryana were robbed of their money, phones and even their clothes and shoes while crossing the forest. They had to trek in the cold and snow barefoot.

The journey takes eight to ten days and if something goes bad or a migrant die, then there is no way to send the body back home.

There is an alternate safer route from Colombia where migrants avoid the dangerous forests of Panama. The route starts from San Andrés where fishing boats with illegal migrants go to Fisherman’s Cay, around 150 kilometres from San Andrés, and then transferred onto another boat to move forward to Mexico, according to the report.

Entering Mexico

From Panama, the migrant head to Mexico for entering the US border and Guatemala is a big coordination centre on this route.

Mexico is a critical path on the entire journey as it involves hiding from government agencies. The 3,140-km border separating the US and Mexico has fencing, which the migrants have to jump across. Many others cross the dangerous Rio Grande River. However, more migrants are detained after crossing the border rather than while crossing the fence or entering by sea.

Route Through Europe

Many migrants also chose Europe instead of transiting through a Latin American country. Though it is easier to go through Europe to Mexico, but the route is under the lens of the authorities.

Despite the odds and the dangerous route, the Dunki method is the most popular method of illegal immigration in Punjab and Haryana, and has expanded to Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.

The “donkey route” are offered to people by a vast network of visa agencies operating in the Punjab region with varying degrees of legality. These agencies often breaking rules, exploiting any legal loopholes or having links with criminal smuggling networks across Europe operate across several Indian states.

Karni Chief’s Shooter Used ‘Dunki’ Way

In the recent sensational murder case of Rashtriya Rajput Karni Sena chief Sukhdev Singh Gogamedi, which led to protests in Rajasthan, MP and other states, mastermind Rohit Godara used the ‘Dunki’ method to escape to the US.

Godara, a resident of Bikaner’s Lunakaran, believed to have escaped using the donkey route to the US before entering Canada. A history sheeter, Godara has over 32 cases registered against him at various police stations in India.

Report by- News 18

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