Islamabad, Jun 19 (EFE).- Pakistani authorities arrested on Monday an alleged people smuggler linked to the shipwreck of an immigrant boat off the coast of Greece that left at least 78 dead and hundreds missing last week.
“The agent involved in the boat accident was arrested,” the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) said in a statement, adding the alleged trafficker “received Rs2.3 million (over $8,000) to send a victim (of the accident) to Europe with the connivance of his other associates.”
The arrested, Waqas Ahmed, was apprehended in Gujrat district, located in the eastern province of Punjab, while the FIA announced that they were conducting further raids to catch other suspects.
With this arrest, the Pakistani authorities have detained at least 15 alleged human traffickers in recent days, according to local media reports.
Between 500 and 700 migrants – including women and children – are believed to have been on board the 30-meter-long boat that sank on Wednesday last week in the Mediterranean Sea, according to Greek media reports.
Pakistan believes that a large number of the victims on the boat were its citizens.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mumtaz Baloch told EFE that authorities are still trying to establish “how many Pakistanis have died or are missing in this human tragedy.”
The Asian country’s embassy in Athens has identified 12 Pakistanis who were rescued by the Greek authorities, Baloch said.
Pakistan on Monday observed a day of mourning, in which Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif ordered special prayers, while flags flew at half mast in honor of the deceased.
Moreover, the Pakistani authorities have formed a committee to identify those responsible for human smuggling in the wake of the tragic incident, and announced more severe penalties against human trafficking.
The operation to rescue survivors from the shipwreck rescue operation by the Greek authorities continued for the fifth day on Sunday, while hopes of finding more people became negligible.
A total 104 survivors have been rescued and 78 bodies recovered so far.
Pakistan is mired in a severe economic crisis with record inflation figures, while also witnessing deep political instability since politician Imran Khan was removed from the post of prime minister last year by a vote of no confidence.
According to the Bureau of Emigration and Overseas Employment, a record 832,339 Pakistanis migrated out of the country in 2022, a nearly 200 percent increase from the previous year. More than 315,787 people have left Pakistan so far in 2023. EFE