Islamabad, Jun 23 (EFE).- Pakistan’s interior minister Rana Sanaullah said on Friday that around 350 Pakistanis had been travelling onboard the fishing vessel that sank last week off the Greek coast, even as the process of identifying the victims continues.
“The number of Pakistani passengers onboard – as per the information that we have received so far – is approximately 350,” Sanaullah told the National Assembly while sharing the latest available data on the accident.
Migrants from Pakistan formed the largest chunk of the passengers, who numbered between 400-750 according to the International Organization for Migration, even though the trawler had a maximum capacity of 400.
So far, just 104 passengers including 12 Pakistanis have been rescued, while the rest remain missing or have turned up dead.
Sanaullah said that so far 82 corpses of Pakistanis had been recovered, even as the process to identify the bodies continued.
The minister said that around 281 families have got in touch with the Pakistani government with fears that their family members may have been among the victims.
“So far 193 DNA samples have been taken from those families and the identification process is on,” said the minister, adding that once this process is complete, the bodies would be flown back to Pakistan.
Since the boat sank, Pakistani authorities have arrested 15 people over charges of human trafficking, including the supposed kingpin linked to the tragedy.
Sanaullah said that loopholes in Pakistani laws had resulted in the lack of convictions in similar cases in the past, when trafficking accused have often been released on bail.
“Amendments to the laws are under consideration to ensure that those involved in human trafficking and employing illicit means to send people abroad face appropriate punishment,” the minister said.
The fishing boat sank on Jun. 14 around 50 miles (80 kms) away from the city of Pylos in southern Greece.
The boat had left from Egypt, made a stopover in eastern Libya where the migrants boarded, and then was headed to Italy.
Some international media outlets have cited survivors’ testimonies claiming that it was the coast-guard that had caused the boat to capsize by trying to tow it, although Greek authorities and the coast-guard have denied this. EFE