PM Shehbaz directs FO to ascertain facts as 28 Pakistanis die in Italy boat tragedy

PM Shehbaz directs FO to ascertain facts as 28 Pakistanis die in Italy boat tragedy


At least 59 people died when a boat carrying migrants capsized off Italy on Sunday

ISLAMABAD (Dunya News) – Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday termed the reports of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy “deeply concerning & worrisome”. 

Taking to Twitter, the premier has directed the Foreign Office to ascertain facts as early as possible and take the nation into confidence.

At least 59 people including 28 Pakistanis died when a wooden sailing boat carrying migrants from Turkey to Europe crashed against rocks near the southern Italian coast early on Sunday, authorities said. The deadly incident reopened a debate on migration in Europe and Italy, where a recently-elected right-wing government has introduced tough new laws for migrant rescue charities, which drew criticism from the United Nations and others.

The provisional death toll stands at 58, Manuela Curra, a provincial government official, told Reuters. She said 81 people survived, with 20 hospitalised including one person in intensive care.

As emergency services were still searching the sea and the coastline amid stormy weather, Curra said that survivors had said some 140 to 150 were on board - suggesting that some migrants were still missing.

The vessel, carrying people from Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries, sank in rough sea conditions near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern coast of Calabria, the region that forms the tip of Italy's boot.

It had set sail from the western port of Izmir "about four days ago" and was first spotted about 74 km (46 miles) off the coast late on Saturday by a plane operated by European Union border agency Frontex, Italian police said.

Patrol boats were mobilised to intercept it, but severe weather forced them to return to port, police said, adding that authorities then mobilised search units along the coastline.

Among migrants first found washed up on the beach was a baby a few months old, according to ANSA news agency. Cutro's mayor, Antonio Ceraso, said women and children were among the dead, though it was not yet clear how many.

His voice cracking up, the mayor told the SkyTG24 news channel that he had seen "a spectacle that you would never want to see in your life ... a gruesome sight ... that stays with you for all your life".

Wreckage from the wooden gulet, a Turkish sailing boat, was strewn across a large stretch of coast.

One survivor was arrested on migrant trafficking charges, the Guardia di Finanza customs police said.

Meanwhile Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed deep sorrow for the deaths, and blamed inhumane human traffickers who profit while offering migrants "the false prospect of a safe journey."

"The government is committed to preventing departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so, first of all by calling for maximum cooperation from the countries of departure and of origin," she said.

Meloni's administration has said migrant rescue charities are encouraging migrants to make the dangerous sea journey to Italy, and sometimes work in partnership with human traffickers.