ANI Photo | Pak: Traffickers exploit, torture people seeking passage to Europe via Iran, says report

In a disturbing turn of events, human smugglers targeted Pakistani immigrants seeking passage via Iran to reach Europe. extorting and torturing them while also demanding ransom, Dawn reported on Sunday.
The modus operandi involved local immigrants coordinating with international smugglers to detain the immigrants in Iran aspiring to reach Europe. The victims were held captive, tortured and filmed to seek money for their safe release, according to the report.
Dawn reported that last month, three such incidents were reported in which as many as 10 young men were tortured and incarcerated by these gangs. A few of them paid money to secure freedom while some were released by the Iran police in collaboration with the Pakistani embassy in Tehran.
The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said the dangerous trend of arranging the travel of illegal immigrants and detaining them abroad to extract heavy amounts, by local gangs “in cohort with their international counterparts”, has picked steam in recent times.
Last month, Muhammad Husnain, a resident of Hafizabad, along with his cousin Faisal and neighbour Anwar, left for Iran via road to reach Europe. They travelled along with (travel) agent Muhammad Sarwar on valid visas, who promised to take them to Greece via Turkey from Iran, Dawn reported.
Upon arriving in Tehran, Sarwar sought USD 2,500 each from the trio to send them to Europe. The three contacted their families in Pakistan for the money. As the families failed to raise the required amount, Sarwar took them to a three-storey house in Tehran on the pretext that he would arrange their travel for a few hundred bucks.
“When we reached the house, the people present there overpowered us and shut us in a small room. After 24 hours, some three to four persons wearing facemasks gave us water and afterwards, they unleashed brutal torture on us. They also filmed the torture and sent it to our families in Pakistan demanding USD 5,000 each for freeing us,” Husnain told Dawn.
They treated the captives like animals, the report claimed.
“When our families told the captors that they could not arrange the money they became crueller. They cut an ear of Faisal, burnt the hand of Anwar, and put nails into my feet. They would use electric shocks to torture us and send the videos to our families which finally paid a sum of PKR 300,000 using ‘Easypaisa’ to a pointed person,” he told Dawn, adding that their captors subsequently put them in separate rooms.
Meanwhile, Husnain’s family approached the Overseas Pakistanis Foundation, which, in turn, contacted the Pakistan embassy in Tehran. The Pakistani mission took up the matter with the Iranian police and also flagged the FIA in Gujrat for backtrack investigation.
Before the Iran police could raid the whereabouts of the culprits on the information provided by Pakistan Ambassador Muhammad Mudassar Tipu, Husnain managed to escape from the custody of his captors, and a Pakistani taxi driver helped him contact his family back home.
“After 22 days of captivity, I got a chance to escape. My captors were confident that there were nails in my feet and I could not walk. One day they didn’t bother to lock me from the outside and I managed to escape. On road, I came across a Pakistani driver who helped me connect with my family who requested him to drop me at the Pakistani embassy,” Husnain said.
Meanwhile, the Iranian police recovered Faisal and Anwar and handed them to the Pakistani embassy. The embassy shifted them to a hospital for treatment.
“We have learned that gangs of Pakistani human smugglers, in collaboration with some Afghans and Iranians, have indulged in this heinous crime. They lure potential illegal immigrants to Iran and detain them to seek a hefty amount from their families,” FIA Liaison Officer in Tehran, Aftab Ahmad Butt, told Dawn over the phone.
He said the Pakistan embassy also pursued two more cases in which seven young men from Sargodha and Islamabad areas were rescued from their captors. In one such case, the captors forced the family of a captive to pay PKR 10 million ransom for his release.
“Ambassador Mudassar Tipu has taken a keen interest in rescuing the Pakistanis and remained in constant touch with the Iranian authorities in this regard,” he said.
“There was a need to create awareness about the modus operandi of human smugglers operating in Pakistan,” he added.
The Pakistan embassy had also informed the FIA about such cases in Iran, urging them to take strict action against the chain of these human smugglers in Pakistan.

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