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    Nepalis brave ‘death route’ to reach Europe

    ANN/ THE KATHMANDU POST – In a small, zinc-roofed abode in Chhipchhipe live Yamkala Tiwari and her elder son Dipendra. Yamkala’s younger son Nabin left for Turkey, five years ago, with dreams of making it big in Europe. Dipendra had passed Yamkala the message Nabin left at about 9pm on December 5, 2017.

    Ten days passed but Nabin’s promised call didn’t come.

    It never did.

    Nabin, 24, left the country on November 1, 2017, aiming for Greece via Turkey, with a work visa. After 24 days, he notified Dipendra of his arrival in Istanbul, Turkey.

    Five days later, he was part of the group aiming for Greece. This the family knows but not much beyond. For the past five years, Yamkala has been waiting for her son’s return, with sad eyes and a dejected mien.

    Those who try to reach Greece via Turkey have to brave the Evros River and the Mediterranean Sea. Those who don’t want to cross them on congested boats, overburdened with hopefuls, have to opt for the 203-kilometre hiking route through a jungle.

    Yamkala Tiwari holds a photo of her son Nabin Tiwari. PHOTO: THE KATHMANDU POST

    Nabin and his team chose the latter route, the family learnt through enquiries and from men on the group, including Moti Gurung, from Ilam, Rohit Gurung, and Tikaram Bhattarai, also from Kawasoti.

    In a Facebook Messenger conversation on July 25, 2018, Moti said they walked for seven nights and eight days through the dense forests with little to no food, and that Nabin had fallen sick en route.

    “The agent left Nabin with an unknown man in the jungle and led us forward,” Moti said from Greece. “I don’t know what happened after that.”

    Moti is out of contact since then and his Facebook account hasn’t been updated since March, 2020.

    With Nabin’s whereabouts unknown, Dipendra contacted a man called Mohammed, who was responsible for taking the group to Greece via Turkey, through the social networking app Imo. Mohammed said Nabin was suffering from fever; hence he was admitted to a hospital. Mohammed, however, didn’t reveal the name and location of the hospital where Nabin was said to be undergoing treatment.

    The family got in touch with Moti after seven months of Nabin’s disappearance. Moti already reached Greece by then and was just released after spending 25 days in police custody.

    Yamkala gets overcome with emotions thinking of the times she spent with her younger son. “After my son disappeared, I lost count of days and nights,” she said.

    Uncounted deaths, few complaints

    Many Nepalis lured by organised human traffickers and after spending INR1.1-1.5 million, have just one goal in mind – to reach Greece anyhow.

    Deputy Inspector General Tek Prasad Rai, who is former chief at Nepal Police’s Anti-Human Trafficking Bureau, said for most Nepalis, Greece is a transit point to enter other European countries.

    According to the Missing Migrants Project of the International Organisation for Migration, within the first five months of 2022, as many as 21 migrants have died in the Turkey-Greece border area. In January and February 2021, 10 migrants were found dead in the same area.

    But despite the fact that incidents of deaths, disappearances, and accidents among illegal travellers are increasingly being reported, Nepalis haven’t stopped trying to get to Greece via Turkey, and spending millions for it.

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