Global Hour

The Donkey Road to the Land of Dreams: How Indians Risk Their Lives for A Better One

In December 2023, the world woke up to an unexpected revelation as an Airbus A340, en route to Nicaragua, was grounded in France under suspicions of human trafficking. Based on a tip-off, French authorities said the flight carried 303 passengers of Indian origin. This event coincided with Shahrukh Khan’s new release, Dunki, which is based on the idea of illegal immigration. This action also set off a chain of events that brought the illegal immigration channel called the Donkey Route into the light.

After several days of processing, the Romanian flight carrying 276 passengers has been allowed to return to India. This news has exposed the emergence of Nicaragua as a new transit point and raised concerns about potential human trafficking rings operating in India. 


Border Crossing: Origins and Increase in Popularity

To understand the complexity behind why illegal immigrants choose the Donkey Route, you need to understand its origins and the socio-economic factors that fueled its popularity. When trying to trace back the roots of this ‘route’, you will find an amalgamation of desperation, poverty and the elusive promise of a better life that lies beyond borders. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data revealed a surge in apprehensions of Indians attempting to enter the US illegally in 2023. With 96,917 recorded, India became the 3rd largest source of illegal immigrants apprehended at the US border. 


The surge in the use of this method of border crossing can be attributed to a lot of factors, including political instability, economic hardship and the dream of escaping harsh living conditions. When individuals face these problems, they yearn for the opportunity to restart their lives. The Donkey Route presents itself as an alluring path to a brighter future, albeit one fraught with peril.


How does the Donkey Route work?

The Donkey Route, also known as “Dunki” in Punjabi, is a network of hidden paths across different countries that is used for illegal immigration. The primary goal of this route is to reach the United States, Canada and some European countries. It’s a complex labyrinth, constantly evolving to evade authorities, making it difficult to track and quantify. It involves hopping from country to country to create a travel history and hide the actual destination. It operates in the form of a vast network of passageways facilitated by underground agents and human traffickers.

The entry point of this route is usually in countries with lenient visa policies for Indians, like Ecuador, Bolivia, or Nicaragua. Several transit points pass through various countries to utilise their loopholes and relaxed border controls. Some of the most popular transit points are Serbia, Romania, Hungary and Kazakhstan. The final leg of this journey is the chosen destination. Going to the US involves crossing the Darien Gap jungle or the Mexico-US border. In contrast, for Europe, it might involve flying into a Schengen country and then seeking illegal entry into target countries like the UK.


Risks and Perils of the ‘Dunki’ Journey

The journey to the land of dreams is not an easy one and the dangers faced by migrants are manifold. Treacherous terrains like the Darien Gap jungle present physical challenges, while unpredictable weather conditions add a layer of risk. Migrants can quickly become vulnerable prey for criminal elements, exposing them to violence, exploitation and human rights abuses. Adding to the dangerous nature of the journey is the exploitative agents like human traffickers who view these desperate individuals as commodities to be traded for profit. 


Donkey Route: A gateway to opportunity or a descent into darkness?

The answer to this question lies in the nuanced understanding of the desperation that drives these individuals to choose these methods. Only some people who wish to live a life in these glorious cities can afford to bypass the hardships that come along the path of chasing these dreams. The limited legal avenues for migration push people towards the risky trap of the Donkey Route. There are also several malicious networks operating within this system wishing to exploit these vulnerable individuals for their profit. 

This is a serious issue that requires a multifaceted approach that involves dismantling illegal networks, enhancing legal pathways for migration, and tackling the root causes that drive individuals to embark on this difficult journey.


Read More: Nationwide Truck Drivers on Strike in India Sparks Fuel Crisis Amid Controversial New Law


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