16 Pakistanis survive Italy shipwreck – 28 Feb 2023

FO says diplomats in Rome in contact with local authorities to verify status of four missing persons

The Foreign Office said on Monday that four Pakistani citizens were still missing, while 16 survived Sunday’s migrants shipwreck in the southern Italian coast, as the overall death toll from the tragedy rose to 62.

A sailboat, carrying 180-200 migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Somalia and several other countries to Europe, crashed into rocks amid stormy weather near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern coast of Calabria.

Initial reports had suggested that the deceased included around 28 Pakistanis. Italian authorities had said on Sunday that 81 people, mainly Afghans survived the shipwreck. The officials said more bodies were recovered on Monday, raising the death toll to 62.

The Foreign Office said in a tweet that Pakistani diplomats in Italy had met with 16 Pakistani survivors, who said that there were a total of 20 Pakistanis on the ship and that the four remained still missing.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif had said in a tweet on Monday morning that reports suggested more than two dozen Pakistanis had drowned and that he had asked the Foreign Office to make checks.

Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra said the ministry had requested Italian authorities for details. She quoted a Pakistan Embassy official, who met the survivors, as saying that they were “in good physical condition”.

Rescuers and UN agencies said many Afghans had been travelling on the wooden sailboat, which had come from Turkey. Afghanistan’s foreign office and refugee ministry spokespeople did not respond to request for comment.

Italian officials said that the rescuers recovered two more bodies on Monday, bringing the death toll to 62, including at least 14 children. Many of the victims washed ashore close to Steccato di Cutro where the vessel sank, while some bodies were recovered from sea.

“One Afghan 12-year-old boy lost his entire family, all nine of them—four siblings, his parents and other very close relatives,” Sergio di Dato, head of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) team offering psychological support to the survivors, told journalists.

Save the Children charity said on Twitter it was supporting survivors from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Syria, including 10 minors who had been travelling with their families. “There are many missing minors,” it wrote.

As blustery winds die down at sea, dozens of coffins were laid out in a sports hall in the neighbouring town of Crotone ahead of an eventual funeral, as local people left flowers and candles on metal railings outside to show their respect.

Forensic police set about identifying the victims, issuing an email address to which relatives searching for loved ones could send distinguishing details, from eye and hair colour to tattoos or piercings.

The shipwreck has stoked a debate on migration in Europe and Italy, where the recently elected right-wing government’s tough new laws for migrant rescue charities have drawn criticism from the United Nations and others.

However, Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi denied that the government was to blame for the loss of life, pointing the finger instead at human traffickers and the families that set off to sea.

“Desperation can never justify travelling in conditions that endanger the lives of their children,” he told reporters. Hundreds of thousands of migrants have reached Italy by boat over the past decade, fleeing conflict and poverty back home.

The boat that sank off Calabria had departed from the western Turkish port of Izmir about four days ago and was spotted 74 km off the coast late on Saturday by a plane operated by European Union border agency Frontex.

An initial attempt to reach the vessel was thwarted by bad weather, police said. Interior Ministry Undersecretary Wanda Ferro dismissed accusations that the migrants could have been saved despite the rough seas as “boorish political propaganda”.

One survivor was arrested on migrant trafficking charges on Sunday, but the Guardia di Finanza customs police said two more people were suspected of having aided the alleged smuggler.


Read more