Many Punjab women entering Greece illegally, say gurdwarasBy Alkesh Sharma, IANS
Saturday, November 20, 2010
JALANDHAR - Many young women from Punjab in search of jobs abroad end up illegally in Greece, where they are forced into the flesh trade, says an NGO that has taken up their cause after a request from gurdwaras in that country.
Managing committees of Greece-based gurdwaras have written to Punjab NGO Lok Bhalai Party (LBP), which works for the rights of Indians stranded abroad, to stop Punjabi girls from coming to Greece.
The gurdwaras have pointed out that Punjabi girls, in search of better jobs, are reaching Greece illegally, but there are no opportunities available for them there.
“Ten gurdwaras in Greece have collectively sent us a request letter to stop the people of Punjab from sending girls to Greece as there are no jobs available there,” the NGO’s senior vice-president Avtar Singh Mullanpuri told IANS here.
“Failing to find any jobs, these girls live in very miserable conditions and many of them are forced into flesh trade,” he added.
Around 50 girls are currently stranded in Greece, he said.
“They can stay in the gurdwaras during the day but according to the rules of the Greece government, they cannot stay there at night. So, the girls are on roads at night and are sexually exploited many a time,” Mullanpuri said.
He alleged that Baba Gurnam Singh, a travel agent from Moga in Punjab who resides in Georgia, has been placing advertisements in media and taking Punjabi girls to that country and handing them over to Pakistan-based agents, who illegally take them to Greece through the forests of Turkey.
“Agents are sexually exploiting the helpless girls who do not know the local language. We do not even have an Indian embassy in Georgia which the victims can approach,” Mullanpuri pointed out.
The Lok Bhalai Party has started a campaign to deal with the problem and its representatives have urged the government for intervention.
Said the NGO’s president Balwant Singh Ramoowalia: “We have started a campaign to educate Punjab’s people that they should not send their children to Georgia and Greece. There are no jobs for them there. Travel agents are minting money by making false promises.”
“We also urge the central and state governments to immediately intervene in the matter and ensure the safe return of the girls. They also need to keep a tab on the unscrupulous agents,” Ramoowalia said.
“We have sought a list of the girls’ names and addresses from the gurdwaras so that we can approach their families in Punjab,” he added.
Ramoowalia said family members of the victim girls are not coming out in the open as they are afraid of social stigma and criticism.
He said the stranded girls, who are from different parts of Punjab, are in their early 20s and they had reached Georgia on student visas.
In their letter to the NGO, the Greece gurdwaras have mentioned that earlier there were cases of Punjabi men illegally coming there but now they have observed a sudden surge in the number of girls adopting this illegitimate immigration path.