February 22, 2024, Thursday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Over 300 Pakistanis killed in Mediterranean boat disaster

The Nepal Weekly
June 20, 2023

More than 300 Pakistani people have been killed in the sinking of an overcrowded fishing trawler off the coast of Greece, the latest tragedy to expose the refugee crisis confronting the European Union as tens of thousands seek sanctuary from war, persecution and poverty.

The chairman of Pakistan’s Senate, Muhammad Sadiq Sanjrani, disclosed the numbers in a statement Sunday, sending condolences to grieving families of the dead.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with you, and we pray that the departed souls find eternal peace,” Sanjrani said. “This devastating incident stresses the urgent need to address and condemn the abhorrent act of illegal human trafficking.” Greek authorities have yet to confirm Pakistan’s death toll. Pakistan is in the midst of its worst economic crisis in decades, with efforts to secure a financial lifeline from the International Monetary Fund complicated by political turmoil in the country.

Growth has stalled and inflation has soared in the South Asian country of 220 million over the past year. The country has struggled to import essential food products, leading to deadly stampedes at distribution sites.

The number of Pakistanis traversing dangerous routes to Europe in search of a better life has reverberated through the nation, prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to declare Monday a national day of mourning for those who were killed in the boat mishap.

In a tweet Sunday, he ordered a “high-level inquiry” into the tragedy. “I assure the nation that those found negligent towards their duty will be held to account. Responsibility will be fixed after the inquiry and heads will roll,” Sharif wrote.

About 750 men, women and children were on the packed boat when it capsized last week, the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) said, killing hundreds and making the tragedy one of the worst in the Mediterranean Sea, according to the EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson. Every year, tens of thousands of migrants fleeing war, persecution, climate change and poverty risk treacherous routes to Europe. Johansson condemned the role of “smugglers” who put people on the boats.

“They are not sending them to Europe, they are sending them to death. This is what they’re doing and it’s absolutely necessary to prevent it,” she pointed out.