By Shahidul K K Shuvra
In Romania, migrant workers from Asia and Africa are familiar with the term called ‘Game’. In English and their languages, they often hear and tell “Play the Game, Do the Game, and Choose the Game.” What does it mean? Its meaning is simple— come to Romania legally, then escape to Western European countries illegally. Especially The Game is played when they lose jobs, exploited by employers, and paid less, then they prefer to cross the border of Romania with the help of traffickers who have a connection with the border guards to facilitate illegal travel to Western Europe.
It’s called a “Game” because it’s a very risky task, they could be arrested at any time, put in jail, and could be deported to their country and they never would be able to return to Europe. But if they could cross the borders, they could have a better life in a West European country, their immigration laws are more friendly than Romania, and one day they would be able to obtain legal papers. First, they chose Italy, Vatican City has more liberal laws to host refugees, after they become ready for other West European countries. Thus, it’s like the Game of gambling, they can win or lose.
In the last piece that I wrote for the Nine O’clock, I wrote the amount people are paying to cross Romanian orders, some told me it’s hard to believe. I made a re-inquiry and found the amount is sometimes higher than what I wrote last time. Last summer migrants used to pay 4000 Euro to cross the border. They tell it’s a Game for VIPs, they cross the border by taxi and car with seating 3 and 4 migrants in the car. They use a lorry and van for 20 to 25 people, here they ask for 2000 or 2500 Euro each person. It’s the Game for both sides, traffickers make a big amount of money, and migrant workers get the chance to enter their dreamland. The payment varies from broker to broker, depending on his friendship with the border guards and how he could manage the adverse situation, in case of raises. Some brokers claim they have zero level of failures and in case of failure they won’t be arrested or deported, just would be sent back to Romania and then they could try again. There are a lot of Facebook pages and YouTube channels where you would find how traffickers are encouraging and alluring migrants; some names and sites are fake; texts and talks are in their local languages.
In recent years The United Nations (UN) has advised for motivating people to prevent human trafficking through the internet and social media. But, on the contrary, we, unfortunately, witnessed the rise of social media manipulation by human traffickers to allure innocent people, misleading them, and then trap them, even they trap their families in their home county to pay again for liberating their children from the existing problem. Governments and their embassies didn’t have any initiative with civil society to aware the innocent people, monitor the online tricking to allure people, identify Facebook pages and illegal YouTube channels and block them down. It seems human traffickers and their cronies posting ads without barriers and offering transport for trafficking, it looks like someone is selling substances publicly.
Another question is how much they pay to come to Romania. It depends on the country and varies from broker to broker. Besides the usual payment to immigration solicitors, work permit charge, visa fee, and plane fare, there is big payment and hidden costs paid to the associates of the recruiting agency. Especially Bangladeshi workers pay much, one of the reasons there is no Romanian Embassy in Bangladesh, they have to collect visas from India; Pakistanis and Sri Lankan people almost pay half of the Bangladeshis people used to pay.
Why don’t migrant workers want to go back home when they lose their job or don’t like their job? The payment and time they spend, for example, a Bangladeshi worker pay 7000 Euro to 12000 Euro; he has to wait 4 months to 12 months, during the covid time they had to wait 2 years; sometimes they have to travel to Delhi from Bangladesh; here they need a double entry Indian visa and have to wait in India for one to two months or three; the process is expensive and time-consuming. The money they spent can’t recover even if they work in Romania for 3 years, and they have to pay back the loan they have taken to come to Romania. Therefore, they don’t have an option than escaping Romania for a better job in Western Europe to pay back the loan.
Last summer a supplier provided 30 Bangladeshi workers to a hotel in Constanta, which sent the invitation by charging a good amount of money; the next day after joining the hotel they were told– your job no longer exists which meant they lost their job just after arriving in Romania. What would they do and where would they go? In the provisional period, the employers have the right to fire any worker without notice but it’s horrible for migrant workers.
This winter, before falling snow and during Christmas and new year holidays a big number of migrant workers started losing jobs, they have to go back to their home country in 3 months if they won’t find a new job, but it’s hard to find a new job in this holiday session. Therefore, a big number of migrants would play the Game; the Gamers are alluring them to cross the borders of Romania.
Who are the invisible human traffickers or who are the Game Makers? We always talk about illegal migrants and the media focuses on the victims, who are manipulated in their own country, and again cheated in the migrated country, they became victims of human traffickers. Immigration police always hunt them but who are the men behind the human trafficking is always unknown and remains unseen. We should look for the Game Makers and their cronies. They have multiple identities, living posh and expensive life as businessmen, brokers, diplomats, etc are in the nexus, and their cronies are in the fields for engineering human trafficking through some kind of business process.
*The writer is a Bangladeshi journalist, worked at several English daily newspapers, he is a resident of Romania and connected to Romanian culture, history, and literature for more than a decade. He is can be reached at email@example.com