EDITORIAL: Pakistan observed day of mourning on Monday as bereaved families tried to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.

Hundreds of illegal migrants heading to Europe, among them an estimated 400 Pakistanis, 200 Egyptians, and 150 Syrians, including women and children, were travelling in an overcrowded fishing trawler when it sank off the coast of Greece.

Sadly, the Greek coastguard could see the boat was in trouble but made no attempt to save lives, raising questions as to why they failed to start a rescue attempt when it was clear that the boat was slowly going under.

The UN has called for an investigation into the Greek authorities handing of the disaster. Only 12 Pakistanis are known to have survived while the UN says up to 500 people are missing – presumed dead. The sheer scale of the tragedy has shocked the nation, though this shameful crime is being committed openly for years. Just last February several Pakistanis, including a well-known woman footballer, had similarly perished at sea.

Majority of the Pakistani victims belonged to villages in central Punjab around Gujrat, Sialkot and Mandi Bahuddin as well as Kotli in Azad Kashmir.

According to their families’ people, smugglers charged two million rupees or more from each aspiring migrant. In most cases the amount was paid by selling family valuables or incurring loans in the hope of reaching greener pastures. The news of migrant boats sinking keep coming every now and then, yet people continue to risk their lives to escape wars or economic adversity, looking for a bright future in Europe.

According to the father of a migrant who has gone missing, smugglers brainwashed his son into embarking on the dangerous voyage. This could not be happening without the knowledge of law enforcement agencies, in particular the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), patronised by influential individuals.

FIA Deputy Director Mian Ajmal has been quoted as saying that the heirs of the victims were reluctant to file complaints against human traffickers; hence the agency would lodge complaints on its own against those involved. Obvious reason for the reluctance is fear of harassment, which suggests those facilitating this heinous crime are too powerful to be named.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has now formed a high-level committee to ascertain the facts of the latest boat tragedy and identify loopholes in the enforcement mechanism that exposed Pakistanis to “vagaries of human trafficking in this particular case”. Heads must also roll.

The committee is to make both short- and long-term recommendations to deal with this challenge. Pakistan, of course, is not alone in this.

Each year thousands of illegal migrants undertake the hazardous journey organised by a criminal enterprise in a complex and sophisticated operation with global connections. It is good to note, therefore, that international cooperation is also to be sought. Hopefully, the resolve to tackle this grave issue will not fizzle out with the passage of time. No Pakistani must ever be aboard a boat capsizing at sea near the shores of Europe.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023


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KU Jun 21, 2023 10:42am
Sadly this or that reasons are just passing the buck or blame, the culprits are the rich human smugglers who thrive in partnership with the criminal network in our country. Besides the migrants chose to spend 3 million on this venture because they know that spending same amount for business in Pakistan is useless as law n order situation will ruin any chance of success.
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