According to data supplied by Reuters on Thursday by the Federal Investigation Agency, there were at least 209 Pakistani “victims” on an overloaded boat that overturned and sank in open seas off the coast of Greece last week.
According to eyewitnesses, 400 to 750 passengers were jammed onto the 20- to 30-meter-long (65- to 100-foot) fishing boat, which overturned and drowned early on June 14 approximately 50 miles (80 km) from the southern coastal town of Pylos.
The official death toll from the disaster remains at 82, with 104 survivors, 12 of whom were Pakistanis.
Hundreds of passengers from several countries are reported to have been on board the vessel in what is being called the region’s greatest sea disaster in years.
According to the FIA, the figure of 209 Pakistani victims aboard is based on information provided by relatives who came forward to report a relative of theirs had boarded the boat travelling from Libya to Greece and was still missing.
“An investigation to verify this is underway,” stated FIA Islamabad Zone Director Rana Abdul Jabbar.
Meanwhile, the government has yet to clarify how many of its people were on the ferry, but it has launched a DNA sampling initiative to assist Greece in identifying those who died.
According to the FIA data, 181 passengers were from Pakistan and 28 were from Azad Jammu and Kashmir. DNA samples were collected from 201 families by officials.
Earlier today, at a weekly news briefing, Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said the government was in contact with Greek authorities and that inquiries into the incident’s circumstances were underway.
According to a Radio Pakistan report, she stated that Pakistan’s Mission in Greece had worked around the clock to recover and identify Pakistani people who were missing or thought to be dead.
“Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also spoken to his Greek counterpart to discuss arrangements for the recovery of the missing, identification of the bodies, and providing relief to the survivors, and our efforts will continue in this regard,” Zahrah added.
FIA says 54 cases registered against human smugglers
Separately, an FIA official said in a statement today that 54 cases had been filed against human smugglers in Lahore, Gujranwala, and Gujrat.
He stated that the FIA’s Lahore Zone had apprehended 17 traffickers so far, with seven individuals apprehended in Gujrat, two in Lahore, and eight in Gujranwala.
“The Anti-Human Trafficking Circle in Lahore has registered five cases, Gujrat has registered 18 cases, and Gujranwala has registered 31,” the agency stated.
It went on to say that 167 DNA samples from relatives of those murdered in the Greece shipwreck had been collected. The samples, according to the FIA, will be used to identify the victims.
The spokesperson vowed that those involved in human smuggling would be brought to justice and FIA teams were conducting raids on information received from the families of the victims.
“A crackdown on the basis of intelligence is being done to arrest all the suspects in the Greece boat tragedy and a new plan is being drafted to prevent such incidents from taking place in the future,” the FIA added.