GUJRAT: Hundreds of migrants on board the boat that sank off southern Greece last month weren’t provided with life jackets and food, even after they paid the crew $100, said one of the Pakistani survivors who has returned to the country.

Usman Siddique, who was among the 12 Pakis­tanis who survived the tra­gedy, arrived at his hometown in Kaleki village on Gujrat’s outskirts on Friday, family sources confirmed. Since his return, he has met with several people whose loved ones perished in the accident.

Mr Siddique, 28, was a constable in the Gujrat police but took a year’s leave and decided to go to Italy along with his four friends, some being cops themselves. They left Gujrat for Libya in May.

At his residence, Mr Siddique told reporters that the crew collected money for the provision of life jackets before boarding the boat.

The boat was carrying at least 700 people with around 350 Pakistanis, mostly from Gujrat, Gujra­nwala, Mandi Bahauddin and Azad Kashmir reg­ions, according to Mr Siddique.

He claimed the boat was stranded at sea after it went off course.

Around 12 hours before the sinking, a helicopter took pictures and flew away, Mr Siddique said, adding that a cargo ship also stopped near the boat on the same day for more than an hour as the crew gave them water bottles and bread.

“Another ship arrived at the scene around 11pm and towed our boat with a rope, but as soon as the ship pulled the boat, it started breaking up.”

“There was a hue and cry as people were drowning. Some held on to the rope after falling off, which kept them alive”, Mr Siddique said, adding that a tourist ship arrived early in the morning and managed to get over 100 people to the shore.

He claimed there were still around 20,000 Pakistanis in human traffickers’ safe houses in Libya, waiting to be sent to Italy via boat.

Three of his friends were also at these safe houses while another, also a police constable, had lost his life in the tragedy.

“The trafficker had pledged to send us to the destination within 10 days of leaving Pakistan, but they never fulfilled the promises and commitments despite receiving money.”

For now, Mr Siddique is back at home after consultation with his family and parents. He was offered a legal permit to stay in Greece but declined the offer, as per family sources. Other Pakistani survivors who were still in Greece have accepted similar offers.

He advised the youth to never opt for the treacherous journey and “always prefer to live within their available resources and means. Your parents will never let you die of starvation.”

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2023

Opinion

Editorial

ICJ rebuke
Updated 26 May, 2024

ICJ rebuke

The reason for Israel’s criminal behaviour is that it is protected by its powerful Western friends.
Hot spells
26 May, 2024

Hot spells

WITH Pakistan already dealing with a heatwave that has affected 26 districts since May 21, word from the climate...
Defiant stance
26 May, 2024

Defiant stance

AT a time when the country is in talks with the IMF for a medium-term loan crucial to bolstering the fragile ...
More pledges
Updated 25 May, 2024

More pledges

There needs to be continuity in economic policies, while development must be focused on bringing prosperity to the masses.
Pemra overreach
25 May, 2024

Pemra overreach

IT seems, at best, a misguided measure and, at worst, an attempt to abuse regulatory power to silence the media. A...
Enduring threat
25 May, 2024

Enduring threat

THE death this week of journalist Nasrullah Gadani, who succumbed to injuries after being attacked by gunmen, is yet...