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Wednesday April 24, 2024

Greece shipwreck: FIA forms teams to arrest human traffickers

Khawaja Asif emphasises need for firm action against individuals involved in human trafficking

By Web Desk
June 19, 2023
This image released by The Hellenic Coastguard on June 14, 2023, shows an aerial view taken from a rescue helicopter, of migrants onboard a fishing vessel in the waters off the Peloponnese coast of Greece on June 13, 2023. — AFP
This image released by The Hellenic Coastguard on June 14, 2023, shows an aerial view taken from a rescue helicopter, of migrants onboard a fishing vessel in the waters off the Peloponnese coast of Greece on June 13, 2023. — AFP 

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Monday formed teams in major cities, including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Islamabad to bring the human traffickers to justice, as the federal agency expended the scope of its investigation into the Greece boat disaster.

The decision was made during a meeting held with FIA Director General Mohsin Hassan Butt at the agency's headquarters in Islamabad today, according to a statement issued by the FIA.

Authorities in Europe still have no clear idea how many people were aboard the boat when it sank — estimates range from 400 to over 700 — but likely hundreds came from Pakistan, and many from Azad Jammu Kashmir. As per the foreign media reports, 80 people have died and hundreds were still missing.

The United Nations Human Rights office said in a statement on Sunday that at least 500 people were still missing and that dozens of people were known to have perished. A good number of women and children were among the missing persons in the "horrific trage­dy". The ferry boat was carrying up to 750 people that went down 50 nautical miles off Pylos in southern Greece, it further said.

Chairing the meeting, the FIA DG directed to complete the investigations against the human traffickers in connection with the Greece shipwreck at the earliest.

“To prevent such incidents in the future, a meeting of the FIA’s inter-agency task force has also been called tomorrow in which an effective strategy will be chalked out,” read the statement.

Terming the human traffickers and their facilitators “international culprits”, the FIA DG directed to take action against the content relating to crossing the border illegally on the social media.

The meeting was told the 83 residents of Punjab were still missing in the tragic incident.

In addition to this, three inquiries and six FIRs have been lodged against more than 20 human traffickers so for, read the statement. Meanwhile five human smugglers have also been arrested from Gujrat, Gujranwala and Lahore, it added.

“Elements involved in heinous crimes like human trafficking deserve no leniency,” asserted the DG.

Another case registered against ‘human trafficker’

Another case has been registered against Sajid Mehmood, an alleged human trafficker who was arrested on June 17, for receiving money from a Greece boat victim for sending him Europe.

Mehmood was arrested from Karachi airport while he was trying to escape to Azerbaijan.

The FIA said Mehmood is resident of Punjab’s Mandi Bahauddin district and accused of smuggling youth to Europe via Greece and Libya.

The spokesperson said that the agency has arrested another suspect named Waqas resident of Wazirabad for receiving Rs2.3 million from a victim. The FIA has registered a case and launched investigations into the matter.

‘Our children were deceived’

Talking to Geo News, the families of the boat victims were of the view that their children were deceived and kept without food and water on the ship.

“The [travel] agents carried out immense cruelty with our children. They [the agents] used to provide food once a day,” said their families.

10-member team formed to collect DNA samples

In order to identify the bodies of the Greece shipwreck victims, the government has formed a 10-member team comprising renowned doctors. The team will collect DNA samples from the relatives of the victims.

The 10-member team has departed for Khuiratta area of Kotli District to collect the DNA samples for cross-matching, said the Mirpur division commissioner.

'Strong action against human trafficking'

Earlier today, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif emphasised the need for firm action against individuals involved in the illegal transportation of people abroad.

Speaking on floor of the National Assembly, the minister expressed deep grief and sorrow over the tragic deaths of Pakistani migrants in a recent boat incident near the coast of Greece.

Asif highlighted that numerous families in Azad Jammu Kashmir, Sialkot, Gujranwala, and Gujrat were currently enduring immense grief as a result of the incident.

He called for a collective effort from the government and opposition parties to take stern action against human traffickers, emphasizing the urgency to put an end to this illegal movement.

While acknowledging the arrest of some individuals within the country, Asif stressed that these human trafficking networks also exist in various other countries.

He urged international cooperation to effectively combat this issue.

Pakistan observed 'Day of Mourning’

A national day of mourning was observed across the country today (Monday) over the tragic deaths of Pakistani migrants aboard the rickety fishing boat that sank in the Mediterranean Sea off the Greek coast last week. The national flag kept hoisting at half-mast today and special prayers were offered for the deceased

Expressing grief over the unfortunate incident of a boat capsising, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had announced a countrywide day of mourning today.

According to the Foreign Affairs Ministry's latest update shared on Saturday, 12 Pakistanis had been identified among survivors of capsized boat.

In observance of the mourning day, the national flag flew at half-mast, and special prayers were offered for the deceased.

‘Boat was deliberately sunk’

Pakistani survivors on the ill-fated boat that capsised off the Greece coast have blamed Greek coastguards for the incident, saying the ship — carrying hundreds of people — was deliberately sunk and no rescue was provided.

The video account of the victims exposed the inhuman attitude of Greece authorities in the last hours leading to the tragedy.

The accounts of two Pakistani survivors emerged days after the tragic incident.

"They have done this [on purpose]. They have sunk it themselves," one of the survivors said, while the other added that they had been still for five days and six nights before the ship sunk "in a minute".

"We did not sink for five days […] so why would we sink now?"

They recounted that the ship's engine had broken down, leaving them still for almost a week.

"We did not drown even though our engine had [completely] shut down. On the sixth night, around 2:30am [… ] I checked the time; it was 2:15am. Around 10 minutes later, this incident occurred," one of them said, adding, "It [the boat] sunk because of the one-maund-rope they threw into the boat."

They further alleged that they did not help despite the presence of two-speed boats, one cargo boat and one receiving ship at the location.

This statement endorsed an independent investigation reported by BBC that poked holes in the Greece authorities' account of the incident.

An analysis of the movement of other ships in the area suggests that the boat remained stationary for at least seven hours before drowning.

Although the Greek authorities did not respond to BBC's findings, they have insisted that the boat was on course to Italy and did not need rescuing.