Islamabad -  Pakistan said on Sunday that it may take around a week to bring back the bodies of several Pakistanis who died after a ferry wrecked off Libya coast on January 31.

Addressing a news conference here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said that 13 bodies of Pakistanis have been identified, adding 32 Pakistanis were aboard the ferry and there was no realistic chance of anyone’s survival.

“The bodies of a husband and a wife have been recovered but their four children are missing. The chances of their (children’s) recovery are little. If there is still any survivor, we will identify him or her later,” he said.

Faisal said around 80-90 people were abroad the ship with 32 Pakistanis among them. “Human smugglers were attempting to illegally take the ferry to Europe. Pakistani officials (from the Pakistan embassy) reached the site the same day (when the incident occurred) and we are trying our best to provide every possible help,” he said.

The spokesperson said that the information about the deceased Pakistanis was available on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website. “We have provided funds to the embassy to bring the bodies back to Pakistan. It may take some days, around a week,” he said. Last week, at least 90 people were feared dead in the Mediterranean Sea as they attempted to reach Europe illegally through a ferry. The vessel, carrying the illegal migrants capsized off the coast of Zuwara in the early hours on Friday, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesperson Olivia Headon had said.

In a statement, he had said: “At least 90 migrants are reported to have drowned when a boat capsized off the coast of Libya this morning. Two survivors from the disaster swum to the shore while another was rescued by a fishing boat.”

The IOM has repeatedly issued warnings over the extreme dangers for the migrants who attempt to risk the illegal route - the so-called central Mediterranean route – that connects Libya to Italy.

Last week, the IOM said more than 6,600 migrants and refugees had already entered Europe by sea since the beginning of the year, with central Mediterranean route crossings to Italy accounting for nearly 65 percent of the entries.

The Pakistanis whose bodies have been recovered so far belonged to Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Rawalpindi and Sargodha districts. Last year too, more than a dozen bodies were found in Turbat, Balochistan as the people attempted to illegally enter Iran and onward to Europe in search of better employment opportunities.

Dr Faisal said that travel documents of four Pakistanis were recovered by the rescue workers. He said that once the bodies of the victims had reached Pakistan, they will be handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency and the interior ministry. “They will be handed over to the heirs later,” he said.

He said that those who lost their lives were being smuggled to Europe. “We have been raising the issue of human smuggling. The people must not use illegal routes to go to other countries. Pakistan discourages human smuggling,” he contended.

He said that Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua was in contact with the Pakistani embassy in Tripoli. “The bodies will be shifted to Tripoli and from there to Pakistan,” he said. Faisal said: “There is a non-functional governance in Libya but still they have cooperated much on the issue of identifying and shifting the bodies (in the future) to Pakistan.”

Since 2013, the drowning in the Mediterranean began surging. The IOM estimated that more than 16,000 people had died, trying to cross over to Europe in the past five years. At least 246 died on this route in the first month of 2018.

 

SHAFQAT ALI