Remarking about what is now termed one of the worst maritime disasters, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that there were about 350 Pakistanis were on board the ill-fated fish trawler that capsized off southern Greece on 14 June.
The boat was overly loaded and an estimated 750 people seeking entrance into Europe were on board. Hundreds are missing, several rescued, countless dead. Egyptians and Syrians were also among the hundreds of migrants feared dead. Nonetheless, the official death toll remains at 82, while 104 survived, including 12 Pakistanis, a grim number of 500 still missing; as their chances of survival are bleak.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister while apprising the Parliament about the death toll of the disaster. He said that his figures are based upon the number of families who had sought government’s help and had taken DNA tests. Giving his estimate, Mr Sanaullah said that for Pakistan “perhaps there has never been such a large toll in any incident before, even in terrorist incidents”.
It is speculated that the heavily loaded boat had set off from Egypt and arrived at Libyan city Tobruk to pick up passengers. These passengers paid thousands of dollars for the harrowing trip. United Nations says between 400 and 750 people could have been crammed onto the vessel, which capsized about 50 miles (80km) south-west of the coastal town of Pylos. The incident is believed to be one the worst migrant boat disasters in the Mediterranean sea in recent years. Most of those who have been rescued were taken to a refugee camp on the mainland just outside of Athens. On the other hand, families and friends of those on board are eager for any information on loved ones who haven’t been accounted for.
However, there’s uncertainty and criticism about Greek response after it was known that the boat was in trouble. The maritime traffic data suggested that the boat was not moving for at least seven hours before it tipped over. Questions are mounting over whether Greek and European authorities could have done more to prevent the tragedy.
The Greek narrative of not initiating action to save the unseaworthy boat was that those on board denied their help. In keeping with the international law experts, Greek authorities were liable to act even if the people aboard rejected assistance, which Greek authorities claimed they did anyway. However, many of the survivors told media and their lawyers that the Greek Coast Guard attached a rope to the boat and started towing it, and that this caused the boat to capsize. Greek authorities initially rejected using a rope, but their narrative shifted dramatically over the past few days. Now they’ve told media that they did use a rope to stabilize the boat and assess the conditions aboard, but they still denied towing the vessel. The contradictions are casting shadow of doubt over the Greek and European authorities response to the gloomy situation.