ISLAMABAD – Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday that more than two dozen Pakistanis were believed to be among 61 people who drowned when a boat carrying migrants to Europe crashed against rocks near the southern Italian coast.
Based on reports from survivors, the authorities believe 180 to 200 people in total had been on board the vessel, said Ms Manuela Curra, a provincial government official.
A total of 61 people have been found dead so far, while 80 were rescued, she added.
The wooden boat, which sailed from Turkey, is said to have carried people from Iran and Afghanistan as well.
“The reports of the drowning of over two dozen Pakistanis in a boat tragedy in Italy are deeply concerning and worrisome,” Mr Sharif said in a statement. “I have directed the Foreign Office to ascertain facts as early as possible and take the nation into confidence.”
Ms Mumtaz Zahra, a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, said the ministry had requested details from the Italian authorities.
The Afghan Foreign Ministry did not respond immediately to requests for comment.
Turkey is part of one of the most-used routes for human smugglers to move migrants into Europe. These migrants at times travel by road, walk for miles and endure being locked in ship containers for days.
Italy is one of the main landing points for migrants trying to enter Europe by sea, with many seeking to travel on to northern European nations.
The United Nations’ Missing Migrants Project has registered more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean since 2014. More than 220 migrants have died or disappeared so far in 2023, it estimates. REUTERS