PM Shehbaz directs FO to ‘ascertain facts’ about migrant Pakistanis drowned in Italy

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday took notice of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy and directed the Foreign Office to “ascertain facts” at the earliest.

“The reports of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy are deeply concerning and worrisome,” tweeted PM Shehbaz.

He added that he had asked the Foreign Office to ascertain facts at the earliest so the nation could be taken into confidence.

A day earlier, at least 59 migrants, including 28 Pakistanis, died after their overloaded boat sank early on Sunday in stormy seas off Italy’s southern Calabria region, officials said.

“As of a few minutes ago, the number of confirmed victims was 59,” Vincenzo Voce, mayor of the coastal city of Crotone, told TV channel Sky TG24 Sunday afternoon.

According to the Pakistani embassy in Rome — the capital of Italy — besides others, 40 Pakistan were on board the ill-fated boat.

The mission also said that the bodies of 28 Pakistanis have been fished out of the sea by the rescue officials, however, 12 more citizens are still missing.

The Pakistani officials further said that they are in contact with the Italian authorities, volunteers and maritime agencies in this regard.

The embassy added that it is also in touch with the Pakistani community in the Calabria region and providing them with the latest information about the sad incident.

Meanwhile, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said, “We are closely following the reports about possible presence of Pakistanis in the vessel that has capsized off the coast of Italy.”

Taking to Twitter, she said that the Pakistani embassy in Rome is in the process of ascertaining facts from the Italian authorities.

Earlier, the coastguard service said, “43 bodies” had been found along the coast and “80 people recovered alive, including some who managed to reach the shore after the sinking”.

The vessel had set sail from Turkey several days ago with migrants from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries, and crashed in stormy weather near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern coast of Calabria.

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

Cutro’s mayor, Antonio Ceraso, said women and children were among the dead. Exact numbers for how many children had died were not yet available.

His voice cracking up, Ceraso 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.

Curra said the vessel left Izmir in eastern Turkey three or four days ago, adding that survivors had said some 140 to 150 were on board.

“Many of these migrants came from Afghanistan and Iran, fleeing conditions of great hardship”, Italian President Sergio Mattarella said.