‘All for nothing’
It took Habibur Rahman around two weeks of hectic journey to enter Greece from Turkey via an illegal route back in July 2020.
He was part of a group of about 70 migrants, including 20 Bangladeshis. Led by human traffickers, they were subjected to immense hardships, often having to walk up to 20 hours a day.
"We walked day and night through the jungle and on mountainous roads. During the journey, I even had to cross a river on a plastic boat," said Habibur (28), a resident of Dhaka's Keraniganj.
But after all of this, he could barely work for two months as an undocumented worker, before being caught by Greek police for illegal entry into the European Union (EU) countries.
He was then sent to a detention centre. After a 15-month stay there, he was deported back to Bangladesh, along with 18 other Bangladeshi workers last month.
Although such trials are well-known by now, Bangladeshis still continue to seek illegal migration to EU countries, all in the search for better fortunes, even after records show that this path could lead to fatal incidents in the Mediterranean Sea.
According to UNHCR data, between January and November last year, 7,574 Bangladeshis crossed sea and land routes to enter Europe illegally.
On Monday, the deportees from Greece, who returned empty-handed, staged a sit-in and token hunger strike in front of the Jatiya Press Club in the capital, urging that the government support them financially.
They said some of them had to spend up to Tk 13 lakh to Tk 14 lakh to migrate to Greece, but couldn't gain back any of it.
Habibur said he initially went to Iraq in 2018, but was exploited there as his employer did not pay him in two months. He decided to go to Greece after fellow migrant workers in Iraq told him that the European country holds better opportunities.
Habibur said he paid traffickers around Tk 7 lakh for migration to Greece from Iraq via Iran and Turkey. His family back home arranged the money by taking a loan, he said.
Motaher Mia, one of the deportees from Greece, said he had to spend Tk 13-14 lakh to enter the country. He also urged the government to consider sending them to Greece if the opportunity arrives.
Contacted over phone on Wednesday, Faiyaz Murshid Kazi, director general (West Europe and EU) of the foreign ministry, said the 19 Bangladeshis were deported from Greece under a standard operating procedure between EU and Bangladesh.
He said Greece has shown its interest to hire Bangladeshis through regular channels, adding that both countries are working in this regard.