More than two dozen Pakistan citizens among dead in Italy migrant boat disaster

At least 62 people are feared dead in vessel crash

Namita Singh
Monday 27 February 2023 12:05 GMT
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Dozens of migrants die after boat breaks apart off southern Italy

More than two dozen Pakistani nationals are feared dead among the 62 people killed after the vessel they were travelling in crashed near southern Italy on Sunday.

The boat began its journey from Turkey several days ago carrying refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, and Somalia. It was set to land near the southern Italian town of Crotone, when the wooden boat smashed into rocky reefs. BBC News reported that at least 12 children were among those confirmed dead.

At least 81 people survived the accident, with 20 hospitalised, including one person in an intensive care unit, said the Italian authorities, while as many as 30 people are suspected to be missing.

The exact number of people on the boat is not clear, even as rescue workers told AFP that “more than 200 people” were believed to be on board.

"The reports of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy are deeply concerning and worrisome,” said Pakistan prime minister Shehbaz Sharif in a statement.

“I have directed the foreign office to ascertain facts as early as possible and take the nation into confidence,” he added.

Funeral parlour employees carry away coffins containing the bodies of deceased migrants on 26 February 2023
Funeral parlour employees carry away coffins containing the bodies of deceased migrants on 26 February 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

Pakistan’s foreign office issued a statement saying they are “closely following the reports about the possible presence of Pakistanis in the vessel that has capsized off the coast of Italy” and are coordinating with the local authorities.

Wooden pieces of wreckage littered the beach at Steccato di Cutro, near the point where the boat apparently broke apart with images showing survivors huddled under blankets, receiving aid from Red Cross Workers. One survivor was arrested on trafficking charges, reported BBC News, citing customs police.

The incident drew sharp reaction from Italian authorities who pledged to stop irregular sea migration so as to prevent more deaths.

“The prime minister Giorgia Meloni expresses her deep sorrow for the many human lives cut short by human traffickers,” a statement from her office said.

“The government is committed to preventing (migrant) departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so, first of all by demanding maximum collaboration from (migrants’) countries of departure and of origin.”

Italian interior minister Matteo Piantedosi said: “It is a huge tragedy which shows the absolute need to act firmly against irregular migration channels.”

He continued, saying it was “essential” to stop sea crossings which, offering migrants the “illusory mirage of a better life” in Europe, enrich traffickers and “cause tragedies like today’s.”

This photo obtained from Italian news agency Ansa, taken on 26 February 2023 shows rescued migrants wrapped in a blanket
This photo obtained from Italian news agency Ansa, taken on 26 February 2023 shows rescued migrants wrapped in a blanket (ANSA/AFP via Getty Images)

European Commission president Ursula van der Leyen said she was “deeply saddened” by the incident as she called for redoubling “efforts” to reform EU asylum rules, to deal with migration challenges in Europe.

Addressing the tragedy, Pope Francis also said he is praying for the dead, missing and “those who have survived”.

Turkey is part of one of the most-used routes for human smugglers to smuggle migrants into Europe, who at times travel by road, walk for miles and endure being locked in ship containers for days, while Italy remains one of the main landing points.

The United Nations Missing Migrants Project has registered more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean since 2014. More than 220 have died or disappeared this year, it estimates.

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