The latest Raj Kumar Hirani special ‘Dunki’ Movie, starring Shahrukh Khan, Taapsee Pannu and Vicky Kaushal hit the big screens on December 21, 2023. To explain the synopsis of Shahrukh Khan’s Dunki movie- It is about a group of friends who use an illegal immigration method to move to a foreign country in search of better living standards. Called the ‘Donkey route’ or ‘Donkey flights’, it has been used by many people in the past to illegally enter the borders of first-world countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. 

Dunki movie explained
Explaining Dunki movie’s – Donkey Route
Image Credit: IMDb

Generally, those who want to visit or work in the United States should get a US Visa for Indians. However, those who are short of financial funds or legal and correct documents often try to enter these countries illegally. While the USA Donkey route is the most popular, donkey routes to enter Canada and the United Kingdom illegally, instead of applying for a Canada Visa or a UK visa, are getting popular too. 

What is the ‘Donkey Route’ or ‘Donkey Flights’? And how do they work?

The Punjabi phrase ‘Dunki’ means to hop from one place to another which is exactly how this illegal immigration method works. The Donkey Flights or Donkey Route is taking a risky immigration route and crossing a country’s borders through a backdoor route by making multiple stops in other countries. It is called ‘Donkey Travels’. While this method was highly popular in Punjab and Haryana, even Gujaratis are now opting for the Donkey process.

On either side, there are ‘agents’ who charge an exorbitant amount of fees to smuggle people out and into their country of choice. The cost of this journey can go anywhere between Rs. 15 lakhs to Rs. 80 lakhs, depending on the country you are immigrating to. These agents offer all-rounded services for the entire process right from fake papers and illegal transport options like shipments or cargo to links in the arriving countries. 

The most popular ‘USA Donkey Route explained

The USA Donkey Route is the most popular among Indians as many are out there to achieve the American Dream. According to a report by US Customs and Border Protections (USCBP), Indians are the 5th largest illegal migrants entering the US, especially from the Southwest borders. From February 2019 to March 2023 as many as 1,49,000 Indians were detained at either the Southwest border, the Canadian border or the Mexican border. Majority of these detained immigrants came from Punjab and Gujarat. The most popular USA Donkey Route, through the Southwest is as follows:

First Stop- Latin America

The first step to get to America through the Donkey process is to get to a Latin American country. Getting a tourist visa or visa on arrival is pretty easy in many of these countries including Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Brazil and Venezuela. The country also depends on which countries the agent has links to smuggle these illegal immigrants. Reaching one of these countries is comparatively easier but with this illegal method, it can take months. 

According to a Punjab man, it took him eight months to reach the USA, with a one-and-a-half-month stopover in Mumbai and the rest in Brazil. From there the immigrants are taken to Colombia, a country pretty close to the United States. 

Crossing Panama’s Forest Area

To reach Panama, these immigrants have to cross a dangerous path making this quite a risky immigration route. Crossing the dangerous forest, Darien Gap involves serious risks like wild animals, unclean water and facing robbery or even rape by criminal gangs. If they have averted every risk you can complete this journey in 8-10 days. From here they reach Guatemala and wait for further signals. 

From the South to Mexico

Donkey route to the US
Group on the way to cross the Panama forest
Image Credit: Twitter/ @captsinghjs

Crossing Guatemala’s border, these immigrants follow new traffickers and enter Mexico. Nowadays, some agents have opened up a new route. Trafficking in immigrants directly to Mexico from Dubai. However, this costs more and also involves a higher risk of being caught by local authorities in Mexico. 

Many immigrants also prefer to take another route, i.e. taking a boat from San Andres to Nicaragua and another boat from there to Mexico. Nevertheless, even this route possesses the exact amount of risk, if not from the forest then from the sea. 

This is followed by a game of hide and seek with the Mexican police to reach the US – Mexico border. 

Crossing the Mexico – US Border

The 3,120 km long border between Mexico and the United States is fenced in major places. Immigrants either take the risk of jumping across these fences or choose to cross the dangerous Rio Grande River. It might seem easy to cross the border, but they are later detained and put into camps. From here on, depending on your luck, the US Authorities might deem you fit for asylum or deport you back to your home country. 

Explaining the UK/ Europe Donkey Route

UK/ Europe Donkey Route
UK/ Europe Donkey Route
Image Credit:

Just like the USA, the United Kingdom has a well-known Donkey Route Map. Illegal immigrants get a Schengen Tourist Visa. This visa allows them to freely move in between 26 countries of the Schengen Zone. From here agents help these immigrants to enter the United Kingdom by issuing fake documents or hiding in trunks of vehicles. 

Indians choosing the dangerous Donkey Route 

So many risks involved, from imprisonment to deportation and costs a load, so why do Indians still choose this illegal immigration method? People tend to sell their jewellery or their ancestral properties to pay these agents. These agents also often withhold passports and important documents from these migrants in exchange for extra money. The answer is that people are motivated to build their lives in a much-developed foreign land with more freedom and equality for individuals. 

Recently, another Nicaragua-bound ‘Donkey Flight’ from India was grounded in France over suspected illegal immigration to the USA. Passengers revealed that they had paid up to Rs. 80 lakhs to reach the United States. The majority of the passengers were from Gujarat, India. 

Aspiring for higher dreams is a human tendency and you can do so by taking the method laid out by the government. Keep in mind all the US Visa requirements and apply for a US Visa, book cheap flight tickets to the United States and enter the country legally to take off your Western dreams. 

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