By Islamuddin Sajid
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AA) – Eleven bodies of Pakistanis killed when a boat capsized in Libya earlier this month arrived in the capital Islamabad on Wednesday evening, officials said.
Some 90 undocumented migrants, mostly Pakistanis, were on board the ill-fated boat when it capsized off the coast near western Zuwara town on Feb. 1.
Zuwara, near the Tunisian border, is a well-known site for boat departures at the height of the Mediterranean migration crisis.
The bodies were received at Benazir Bhutto International Airport by Foreign Office officials and handed over to their relatives.
Most of the deceased belonged to southeastern Punjab, the most populated province of Pakistan.
According to the UN International Organization of Migration (IOM), three survivors of the incident told the aid workers that around 90 people were on the boat and most of them were Pakistanis.
However, Pakistan’s Foreign Office said 33 Pakistanis were on board and so far 13 bodies have been identified.
“Eleven bodies have arrived while the remaining will be dispatched after the completion of procedural formalities,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
A family of four was also on board the boat. The bodies of the husband and wife have been recovered, while their two children, aged four years and two months respectively are missing.
Many Pakistanis from poor and middle-class families who wish to reach European countries for better working opportunities fall prey to the hands of human smugglers.
“I don't know what happened to my son because he was telling me that he is going to Europe. Today I received his dead body. What will happen to his family,” Ghulam Nabi, 65, from Rawalpindi city told Anadolu Agency.
Nabi’s son is survived by a wife, three sons and two daughters.
“My brother paid a huge amount to a person who was to arrange his travel to Europe safely. He never told him that he will go on a boat,” said Sadiq Ali from Gujrat city.
Last November, 15 bullet-riddled bodies were found in Kech area of southwestern Baluchistan province near the Iran border. The bodies were later identified as belonging to migrants who had set off on the treacherous journey to reach Europe.
Pakistani nationals make a growing proportion of migrants trying to reach Europe using illegal routes, according to the IOM.
In January, Pakistanis were the third most common nationality attempting the route, up from 13th in 2017.