Group of 6 brought back from Russia as European dream turns sour

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JALANDHAR: Punjab’s obsession with going to Western nations continues as it loses its youth and money to criminals facilitating illegal immigration. Just two days before a plane carrying 276 passengers, mostly Indians, landed in Mumbai on Tuesday after being grounded in France over suspected human trafficking, six youths were brought back from Russia to India after surviving nine days in a jungle, getting thrashed by border security forces of different countries twice and spending time in a Russian jail.
The destinations of the six — five from Punjab and one from Haryana — were European countries.
The youths were able to return home with the intervention of Rajya Sabha member Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal after he was approached by their families.
Lakhbir Singh, a Dalit Christian of Mehmuwal Mahlan village in Jalandhar district, one of the six youths, said, “We, a group of three, were flown to Oman on October 12. Thirteen days later, we were flown to Moscow, where we stayed for 5-6 days. There, another youth was added to our group. Through taxis, we were taken to Belarus, where a group of 22 men were kept in two rooms. This group included a few Pakistanis and Afghans while those from India were from Punjab, Haryana and Gujarat.”

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“From Belarus, we were taken to a jungle and told that we would sneak into Latvia. Three local traffickers also accompanied us. Our attempt failed as the border force caught and thrashed us and dropped us back deep in the jungle. We were then taken towards Lithuania but that too failed and then there was an attempt to enter Poland, but we were caught again.
By this time, we were in a very bad shape as our eatables had exhausted and we were surviving on tree leaves. Two from the group, an 18-year-old youth and a 35-year-old man, both from Punjab, were unable to walk and were left behind. After we returned to Belarus, we were kept in rooms and were informed by the local traffickers that the two had died in the jungle,” said Lakhbir.

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He said that they were then taken back to Russia and from there made to travel in passenger vehicles twice — each time 1,400 kms one way — and told that they would be made to enter Finland and from there taken to France or Italy. “Both times, Russian forces stopped us and during the second time, they found that the visas of six of us had expired. We were arrested and put in jail. Our families then contacted Baba Seechewal and with the efforts of Indian officials in Moscow, we were released and flown back to Delhi in the early hours of December 24. We don’t know the fate of the others,” he said.
Balwinder Singh, 21, of Sona Sandhar village of Fazilka district, said his destination was Spain.
Both Lakhbur abd Balwinder said they had paid Rs 13 lakh to their agents and had taken Rs 2 lakh along. They said their families had taken loans to send them abroad and now they were under debt after passing through the hellish experience.
The youths survived nine days in a jungle, got thrashed by border security forces of different countries twice and spent time in a Russian jail.



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