Socio-cultural and Psychological Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrants and their Families

The illegal migration has become a severe tension for european countries. Poor people are willing to take risks to change the economic condition of their families, because if they go abroad, even one euro, one dollar or one pound they send will give them so much money in Pakistani currency. As it is not easy for any laborer to earn daily.

According to the Report published by NBC News in 2019 , The 22 immigrants who died in the nation’s sprawling network of detention centers over the past two years came to the United States from countries as far-flung as Vietnam, and as close as Mexico. Some had been longtime legal residents, arriving as refugees or students. Others were recent asylum seekers. Many were young — half were not yet 45 years’ old.

According to the United Nation’s report on deaths of illegal migrants, More than 3,000 people died or went missing while attempting to cross the Mediterranean and the Atlantic last year, hoping to reach Europe.

According to Anti Human Trafficking Cell (AHTC) of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) 23071 Pakistanis have been deported from all over the world in 2022.

Mental Health Condition of Illegal Immigrants in Detention Centre

According to Ex Chairman of Managing Committee of UK & Europe of Red Crescent & Consul General of Liberland to Pakistan Mr. Faisal Butt, we used to get a list every month from the detention center officials, which included the details of people who entered Europe illegally. We were told to visit and see if anyone need help. Whenever we went to the detention center we saw people crying there. It was not that there were no facilities or that they were tortured, but the environment there is such that a person cannot remain mentally at peace”.

Ex Chairman of Managing Committee of UK & Europe of Red Crescent & Consul General of Liberland to Pakistan Mr. Faisal Butt

“Whenever someone from outside, an NGO employee or an employee of our institution, went to meet them, the Pakistanis would cry and hold their feet and say only one thing, get us out of here anyway, we have made a big mistake that we entered this country illegally. Then we would advise them to take voluntary deportation so that they can safely return to their country”.

“There is a difference between a detention center and a prison, but prison is a prison, a prison of any kind tortures a person mentally. So sometimes, seeing the condition of the people, we also felt pity, but we could not do anything. One has to follow the law”.

Here the trauma is not only with him but behind him the families also go through the same trauma. We have received many such cases in which the families were contacted and they said that we had sent our child out with a loan but neither the money is being returned nor our child is coming back. So the first trauma is for them to pay the debt that they have to do”.

“The second trauma is that brother or son, who has gone from here with the intention of going there and sending money, is not sending money, but by asking for money from here, which means that all the money collected was wasted”.

Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
Detension Center UK : Photo Credit : AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL UK

“Thirdly, the family is traumatized that our child is in jail. After that, a person having any function in the family cannot join it. I know many people whose parents died here in Pakistan but they are stuck there. Can’t come back. What would be more unfortunate than that your mother or father died in your home and you cannot see their face for the last time. What is the benefit of such a future and such migration? And after that there is no time limit, whether it takes 10 years or 20 years or it may be that they never come back”.

“After that, the person who comes back after being deported from any country has to suffer the biggest trauma here in Pakistan, FIA case, that is a separate trauma”.

How Bilawal Ali (25 Years) entered GREECE Illegally & What Consequences he faced during the travel and in destination Country?

“I was uneducated, I thought I couldn’t get a job, I couldn’t even get a meal for one time, so I decided to leave my home, my siblings, my homeland and go to Europe. Hafiz Shahid was an agent of Kamonky, my deal with him was done for 8 lacs for sending me to Greece. He said that all the money is to be paid when you reach Greece”.

Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
Bilawal Ali Explaining his Journey. Photo/ RAZ TV

Bilawal Locked in Gwadar Stadium for Three Days

“I left home crying and reached Karachi by train from Lahore. We stayed at Yusuf Goth in Karachi for two days. After that we reached Gwadar where we stayed for three days. The agent locked us in a room at Gwadar Stadium. For three days we were confined in this room and absolutely starved, nothing to eat. I thought that now we are in Pakistan, the situation is so bad, what will happen next. A few friends decided to go back but it was locked from outside and we couldn’t get out.

Three days later, a car was ordered which could seat ten people, but they put thirty-five people in it. We traveled all day in the same vehicle through the desert and reached Iran. On the way, there was a check post of Pakistan Army, the driver got down, we don’t know whether he talked to them, we left there without checking and the same situation was on the side of Iran. We reached Iran”.

Skin Burned While Reaching Bandarabas Iran

“Six days passed but we could not get in touch with our family back. The agent then called for a cabin and put five of us in it, and put five more on top of us and tied a cloth on top of us and tied us with ropes. After traveling for two hours, the floor of the car got so hot that our skin burned, but the car was not stopping. After traveling for six hours, we reached the city of Bandarabas in Iran. When they reached Bandarabas, few people’s condition worsened, they fell ill and some were burnt. The Donkey boss came and gave us enough food to survive. After that, we went to Tehran, Iran by car. Fifteen people sat in a car and started the journey. We spent 18 hours in reaching Tehran from Bandarabas in the same condition as we were sitting in the car without eating or drinking anything. The agent on arrival in Tehran gave us a phone to call our family and ask them to give money, otherwise they will not take you forward or back. We talked to the agent that we will send all the money to Greece, but they started beating us in Tehran to ask for money. We called the house and arranged one and a half lakh rupees and gave it to them. There were some boys before us whom they beat a lot. Seeing their condition, we called to arrange money for them anyway”.

We didn’t even have clothes because it was hot in Pakistan and it was cold and snowy there: Bilawal Ali , File Photo

“Having traveled for 13 hours, we reached the city of Urmia, this city is located on the border of Iran. We stayed in a safe house for two days in Urmia. A man came to us and said to follow me. He used to beat those who stayed behind with sticks. It was so cold because it was snowing season. All night we wandered through the forest, the man who was leading us lost his way, and by morning we were back where we started. We didn’t even have clothes because it was hot in Pakistan and it was cold and snowy there. The clothes were wet, we set the fire and dry our clothes. 2 days we spent in that forest without eating something but leaves of trees. After 2 days, another man came and took us with him”.

Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
Iran-Turkey Border , File Photo

Crossed Turkey Border Led by A Dog

“On reaching the Turkish border, the man himself did not go with us. He had trained a dog. He had a house near the border, he made us stay there and then he handed us over to his dog. The dog went ahead and we all followed. The border fence was cut at one place. Crossing from there we entered Turkey. While crossing the border we were seen by the Iranian army but they did not say anything to us as we had entered the Turkish Area. The Turkish army arrested us. They threw us back to Iran at night”.

Scuffle with Kurd & Arrested by Iranian Army

“We lost our way and wandered into a village. That village belonged to the Kurds, there lived. Kurds who were neither Turks nor Iranians. They wanted to kill us but we all fought them with stones. Meanwhile, the Iranian army came and arrested us. They threw us all back to Turkey at night. This process continued for two consecutive days. It was snowing, hungry, the clothes were also wet, the conditions had become very bad. There were many boys with us who were supplicating to God that death should come to us so that our lives could be spared. What trouble have we fallen into”?

Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
Bilawal Ali Explaining his Journey. Photo/ RAZ TV

Problems in Istanbul

“After arriving in Turkey, the beds we were put in were very bad, the beds were very itchy and very dirty, but we slept in those beds because of the cold. After that we were taken to Diyarbakir. There, the agent gave us a stay from the Turkish government. Due to the stay we traveled by buses and reached Istanbul. When we arrived in Istanbul, there were three hundred people in this safe house before us. There was a basement, and it was not large enough to accommodate four to five hundred people. The situation was that there was no place for the person who stood up to sit.

For 15 days we stayed in the same hall and after 24 hours we were given a naan and a tomato to eat. After fifteen days, the agent said that today you will go to Greece. We were happy that we will reach Greece today but at the same time they told us to call our house and ask for money or we will be killed. I don’t know how the family arranged the money. But the family arranged the money”.

Journey to GREECE

“Agent locked us in the ambulance and took us to the beach. A small boat was brought there, we were all seated in it, and the boat sailed in the sea for 4 days continuously. For 4 days at sea there was no food and nothing to drink. Whoever felt thirsty would drink sea water and his health would deteriorate. Four days later, by God’s grace, we arrived in Greece. We were very happy that finally we had reached our destination but we didn’t know that the real trouble has started now. The agents in the GREECE caught & and locked us in the rooms. He demanded more money from us. My Family sold our cattle and gave them money”.

Problems in GREECE

“When we reached Greece, we did not understand their language. No one was from our family or home town there, neither they understand us nor we understand them. There were no clothes to wear, no house to live in and no food to eat. There was nothing to work with either. I spent three years there in such abundance that I got four days of work in a month and were given a fourth part of the labor of a laborer. I used to spend the rest of the month with the amount of work I got in four days. Whoever is caught there is sent to prison for thirty-six months. Not allowed to work”.

Illegal Migrants Can’t Get Full Payment of Work

“Those who are helpless/illegal are captured by the Pakistanis who are already there in Greece. They employ them, get them to do work and do not even give them money, on the contrary they tell them that you have earned so many Euros, give them to us, because of which they have to work according to them.  I was not getting work, a friend told me to go to a place, there is a friend of mine in the Orange picking garden, meet him and he will give work. The same thing happened to me, I was made to work for three months but I was not paid”.

Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
“I was made to work for three months but I was not paid”. Bilawal Ali : Photo Credit “”

Arrested in Greece & Decided to Sell My Kidney

“I was in GREECE for three years. There was only enough work to cover the cost of living there. Because I was Illegal, even if I got work, I was given half to half a day’s wages. After three years I was caught by the police, they said there were two options either go to jail for thirty-six months or go back to Pakistan. I was worried about what to do when I went back because I came out after putting all the money. I could not earn even 01 lac rupees in three years. There was a time when I found out somewhere that here in Europe you can get a lot of money for selling kidneys, so I decided to sell one of my kidneys so that I could go back and show off what I had earned”.

Bilawal Ali Explaining his Journey. Photo/ RAZ TV

“I asked the policemen that if I spend thirty-six months in jail, will I get a PR?  So the answer was that as you are now, you will be exactly the same after thirty-six months, you will not get PR. Then I decided to come back to Pakistan. I lost my deposit and got nothing, my family faced a lot, now I am back at my home”.

What Bilawal Ali Observed and Faced in Three Years?

  • Sever Cold weather
  • No Food
  • Scuffle with Kurd People
  • Snow Falling
  • Dogs Are Leaders
  • Prayer for Death
  • No Language to Understand
  • No known People
  • No Cultural Harmony
  • No Shelter
  • No Space for Sitting
  • 36 Months Jail
  • No PR
  • No Work Permission
  • No Labor Work Available for illegals

Mental Health Impacts on Illegal Migrants

The physical and mental health of illegal migrants is severely impacted by the journey and the conditions of their current situation. Traumatic experiences, such as witnessing violence along the way, facing abuse, or being separated from loved ones, can lead to severe mental health issues, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Additionally, poor living conditions, such as overcrowded shelters, limited access to healthcare, and inadequate nutrition, can lead to physical health problems, such as anemia, poor hygiene, and infectious diseases. Furthermore, the stress of not having their legal rights recognized or the uncertainty of their future can lead to anxiety and depression. Mental health support for illegal migrants is essential to ensure that these individuals are able to cope with the trauma they have experienced and the uncertainty of their current situation.

Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
“You start feeling lost, first thing you start loosing of your identity is who you are, where you are and where you have come from. After that you come to anxiety and depression starts”. Photo Credit : Counseling Today

According to Sadia Khan, (Psychologist, Senior Lecturer, University of Lahore, Department of Lahore School of Professional Studies), “When you rely on someone and go with hopes that there is guidance for you where you are going and If what is there is not what you thought, you become mentally disturbed.

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First of all, if you don’t see familiar faces in that country, you start having anxiety issues because it is a new place for you. Then after that it becomes a lot of problem because of the culture difference, all the people are new, you don’t know the language and you don’t understand. Everything is automated in foreign countries, you don’t get to use machinery there”.

“You start feeling lost, first thing you start loosing of your identity is who you are, where you are and where you have come from. After that you come to anxiety and depression starts”.

“You traveled so long and endure all physical things just because you want to earn well there but you don’t have any opportunity to earn money there, so with hope and confidence you go there, it breaks you down. It also causes depression”.

Identity Loss as well as Country Loss

“You are a free person in your country, a free citizen of a free country, so when you go under arrest, at that time your identity loss starts as well as country loss, your freedom losses start, and When you cage a free person, his psychological freedom and emotional freedom get compromised and that leads to the actual psychological issues;

  1. Depression
  2. Anxiety
  3. Hopelessness
  4. Suicide idealization
  5. Lose interest in life
  6. Lose interest in family
  7. Lose interest in overall religion

“It doesn’t happen all at once under a system, it comes at you one by one. It is not enough to meet the basic needs of life. Man always likes to live according to his will no matter how many limited and abundant resources he has. If you keep a person in four walls, keep them in a good way as much as you want, but you are keeping him in a four wall, you are restricting his movement, you are restricting him, along with that, you are restricting his emotional needs. So the detention center and that in another country where no one can visit you, no one can share your pain, you can’t tell your family back where you are, so you are all alone in your Miseries. In this situation You will have psychological issues and come to the point where you think you don’t want to live anymore”.

After Effects

“The biggest thing is that its after effects are very dangerous, you come back, yet you live in this trauma for six months, we call it PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that leads to;

  1. Anxiety
  2. Low mood
  3. Depression
  4. Aggression

“They have very bad dreams, they feel what happened to them. They will be lost in their own thoughts, trying not to do it again”.

What Should we do with Returning People?

 According to Sadia khan, The Government should also work to improve the circumstances that led to the illegal migration in the first place, so as to reduce the likelihood of further illegal migration. This could include providing access to education, employment and other basic services, as well as raising awareness about the risks associated with illegal migration”.

Problems Faced by Illegal Migrants in Destination Country

  1. Lack of legal rights: Illegal migrants have no legal rights in the destination country, which means that they may not be able to access basic services and protection from the law. This can lead to serious consequences such as exploitation, unfair treatment and abuse.
Illegal migrants have no legal rights in the destination country: Photo Credit :
  1. No access to healthcare: Illegal migrants typically have no access to healthcare services in the destination country. This can leave them vulnerable to serious health problems, as they are unable to access the medical care they need.
Illegal migrants typically have no access to healthcare services in the destination country. Photo Credit: LLeaP
  1. No access to employment: Illegal migrants may find it difficult to obtain employment in the destination country due to their lack of legal status. This can leave them unable to support themselves and their families, and can lead to extreme poverty.
Illegal migrants may find it difficult to obtain employment in the destination country due to their lack of legal status. Photo Credit: antisa
  1. Discrimination: Illegal migrants are often discriminated against in the destination country, resulting in an atmosphere of fear and hostility. This can lead to further marginalization and exclusion from society.
Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
Illegal migrants are often discriminated against in the destination country, resulting in an atmosphere of fear and hostility. File Photo
  1. Detention and deportation: Illegal migrants may be detained and eventually deported from the destination country if they are discovered by authorities. This can have severe psychological and emotional consequences for the migrant, as well as their families.
Detention & Deportation. File Photo

How Family of Illegal Migrant Suffers Back at home?

The family of an illegal migrant often suffers greatly due to their absence. With the breadwinner gone, the remaining family members have to struggle to make ends meet and may not have access to basic amenities like food, shelter, and education. They may also have to endure financial hardship due to the decreased income. Additionally, the family may face social stigma from their community due to the migrant’s illegal status. This can lead to feelings of isolation and shame, as well as a sense of helplessness.

The mental health of illegal migrant family members back at home is likely to be impacted by a range of factors, including feelings of guilt and anxiety related to the separation from their family, feelings of insecurity related to the lack of legal status, and the potential for economic hardship due to a loss of income. This can also be compounded by the physical and emotional separation from their home and community, as well as the potential for discrimination and other forms of abuse or exploitation. The mental health of illegal migrants’ family members can be further impacted by the stress of navigating complex legal and bureaucratic systems, as well as the potential for deportation.

What government should do to stop Illegal Migration?

According to DD FIA CBC Islamabad Khawaja Hamad Ur Rahman, “Awareness against menace of human smuggling should be made part of curriculum, Government/ FIA should adopt pro-active approach instead of reactive actions. The foreign education consultants as well as religious visits organizers should also be brought under control of some regulatory bodies”.

Socio-cultural and Mental Health Impacts of Illegal Migration on Migrant and his/her Family
Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) , File Photo

 The public in general should be aware regarding the hazards of illegal human trafficking and illegal migration. Seminars should be conducted in the areas from where this menace of illegal migration originates, in collaboration with media and civil society.

  • The views of the victims and affected families should be published/shared through electronic media.
  • The illegal migrants and deportees have soft corner for agents/human traffickers. They do not stand against them in litigation. Resultantly they are not prosecuted/convicted for the acts they commit.
  • Necessary legislation should be made to make the evidence admissible of Local Police/IO of the case.
  • FIA field units are resource less in field operations. The field units should be equipped with necessary vehicles, human resource and budget.

Why FIA Failed to Stop Illegal Migration from Pakistan?

According to Deputy Director FIA Ms. Sarwat Butt “The failure is erroneously attributed to FIA in tackling the issue of illegal migration. FIA has been successful in most of the areas to stop illegal migration. It is pertinent to mention here that FIA has mandated to deal with International Trafficking/Smuggling whereas internal trafficking is the mandate of provisional police. Pakistan has successfully stopped illegal migration on a number of sectors which are as under:

  • Illegal migrants travelled from Pakistan to Russia/Central Asian States on travel documents. From there they adopted illegal border crossing in to Ukraine and further into Europe (2007-2009).
  • Pakistani illegal migrants travelled from Pakistan to South West Africa on travelled documents. From there they used sea routes of Mediterranean to enter into Europe illegally (2005-2008).
  • Illegal migrant from Pakistan to Muscat through Sea routes, Arabian Sea from (1990s till 2007).
  • FIA is successfully taking strict actions against Human Traffickers /Smugglers to eradicate this crime in the country. So far FIA has arrested 3675 Human Traffickers / Smugglers and 28 Most Wanted Traffickers during the last 3 years.
  • Moreover, due to efforts of FIA to curb this menace, to mile stone were achieved that are: (1) Promulgation of Prevention of Trafficking in person Act, 2018 and (2) Promulgation of Prevention of Smuggling of Migrants Act, 2018.

Ms. Sarwat Butt Said “FIA has successfully stopped illegal migration from all the above sectors. It is the matter of pride that Pakistan has been upgraded in Tier-2 from Tier-2 watch list after three successive years because of the hectic efforts made by the FIA to control trafficking and to bust most of the trafficking/ Smuggling networks in the country. Illegal migration through unfrequented land routes from Pakistan to Iran, Turkey and Greece is a wide spread sector. A long porous border of Pak-Iran provides vast opportunities to illegal migrants. Despite the fact that FIA has busted many gangs of human traffickers but still the opportunities for trafficked and traffickers are vast on this sector. FIA has significantly reduced the volume of illegal migrants on this sector.  Concerted efforts by all stakeholders are needed to have a meaningful impact to stop illegal migration from this sector”.

Illegal immigrants may lack proper documentation, such as visas or passports, which can lead to difficulties in accessing basic services and essential resources. Illegal immigrants are at risk of deportation if caught, which can lead to the disruption and separation of families. There is a potential for criminal involvement among illegal immigrants who may be in the country illegally, either out of desperation or to take advantage of the lack of oversight.