FIA nabs four human smugglers in connection with Libya boat tragedy

Human TraffickersSuspected smugglers are part of a human trafficking network that sends Pakistanis to Europe via Libya

FO spokesperson says the bodies of the victims will reach Pakistan in the next seven days

GUJRAT: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) claimed on Sunday to have arrested four human smugglers linked to the incident where a boat carrying illegal migrants capsized near the Libyan coast, which resulted in the deaths of many Pakistanis. FIA officials said the suspects were rounded up after raids were conducted in Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin and Gujranwala.

The Foreign Office (FO) said on Saturday that 16 Pakistanis died in the boat sinking incident off the Libyan coast. A boat carrying migrants capsized off the coast of Zuwara, Libya early Friday, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesperson Olivia Headon had confirmed to reporters in Geneva by phone from Tunis.

“At least 90 migrants are reported to have drowned when a boat capsized off the coast of Libya this morning,” the agency added in a statement. The deceased Pakistanis belonged to Gujrat, Mandi Bahauddin, Rawalpindi and Sargodha areas of the Punjab province.

FIA officials said Sunday that the human smugglers were connected to a network of human traffickers who were involved in sending Pakistan nationals to Libya and onwards to Europe. FO Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Saturday had shared the names and details of the deceased Pakistanis on Twitter.

Meanwhile, Dr Faisal said Sunday that a total of 33 Pakistanis had boarded the boat that sank near Libya last week, adding that the details were collected from a surviving Pakistani eyewitness who was rescued by fishermen.

“Around 33 Pakistanis shared the boat with 80 to 90 other people,” Faisal said while talking to reporters. He also said, “Efforts were underway to take the bodies of the victims back to Pakistan and funds for this purpose have been provided by the embassy.”

The FO spokesperson said that 13 bodies of Pakistani nationals have been identified with the help of their passports and on the basis of information collected from the rescued eyewitness.

The Pakistani survivor, while narrating his story, said that a family of four from Pakistan had also boarded the ship along with others migrants, adding that the bodies of the husband and wife were later found during the rescue operations but their two children, aged four and two months, were still missing.

Another victim of the incident, namely Fareed of Gujar Khan, was also identified by officials. According to his family members, he had contacted them three days before the incident, adding that their loved one had gone to Libya to look for respectable job opportunities.

“Our boat capsized on the night of January 31 near Libya’s coast,” the eyewitness told officials at the Pakistani Embassy in Libya. He also informed officials that he was accompanied by 32 other Pakistanis on the boat that was anchored in the deep sea off the coast of Zuwarah. He further said that the boat capsized as it was in a very bad shape and was lacked the capacity to transport a large number of illegal migrants to Europe.

Meanwhile, Dr Faisal said that the recovered bodies have been preserved and would reach Pakistan in the next seven days.