Boat capsizes in Tunisia

Published:  02:57 AM, 13 May 2019 Last Update: 02:58 AM, 13 May 2019

'37 Bangladeshis confirmed dead'

'37 Bangladeshis confirmed dead' There were 51 Bangladeshis in the boat that capsized in the Mediterranean Sea carrying 75 illegal migrants. -AFP

Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli has confirmed the deaths of 37 Bangladeshis in the boat capsize in the Mediterranean off the coast of Tunisia.

While briefing reporters at his office on Sunday, Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen said 30-35 Bangladesh nationals might have died in the boat capsize as 14 Bangladeshis have already been rescued among 51 of them. It's (the incident and loss of lives) very regrettable, he said expressing displeasure over taking risky voyage by Bangladeshis despite knowing the facts of dangers.

The Foreign Minister said Bangladesh Ambassador to Libya Sk Sekander Ali conveyed them whatever information they have through international media. Asked about the possibility of bringing back bodies home, he said the representative of Bangladesh Embassy in Tripoli will see the situation there physically and bodies will be brought back home, if recovered.

Primarily, we came to know there were 51 Bangladesh nationals among others on the boat, ASM Ashraful Islam, labor counselor of Bangladesh embassy in Tripoli told UNB adding that 37 of them are still missing.About the death, it'll be premature to comment rather it can be said out of 51 rest (37) are still missing, he said, reports UNB.

Ashraful Islam said they do not know yet whether there is any chance of rescuing more. Wait until today (Monday) for my presence on the spot. The rescue operation is still going on.He said the Embassy is in touch with Red Crescent in Tunisia to know details. We're yet to reach Tunisia. We hope to reach there soon.

Mongi Slim, the head of Tunisia's Red Crescent, said on Saturday that around 75 migrants had left Libya's Zouara on the boat.The BBC Bangla, quoting other agencies, claimed that most of the victims were Bangladeshis.Slim told the Associated Press that only 16 people have been rescued by a Tunisian fishing boat and 14 of them are Bangladeshis.

At least 60 migrants most of them from Bangladesh have died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea after it left Libya for Italy, the Tunisian Red Crescent said Saturday.Survivors told the Red Crescent the tragedy unfolded after some 75 people who had left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast late Thursday on a large boat were transferred to a smaller one that sank off Tunisia.

"The migrants were transferred into a smaller inflatable boat which was overloaded, and 10 minutes later it sank," Mongi Slim, a Red Crescent official in the southern Tunisian town of Zarzis,.Tunisian fishermen rescued 16 people and brought them to shore in Zarzis.The survivors said they spent eight hours trapped in the cold sea before they were spotted by the fishermen who alerted the Tunisian coastguard, Slim said.

The bodies of three people were plucked out of the waters on Friday, the Tunisian defense ministry said.Survivors said the boat was heading to Italy and had on board only men, 51 from Bangladesh, as well as three Egyptians, several Moroccans, Chadians and other Africans.

Fourteen Bangladeshi nationals, including a minor, were among the survivors, said the Red Crescent."If the Tunisian fishermen hadn't seen them (migrants), there wouldn't have been any survivors and we would have never known about this" boat sinking, said Slim.

Charity ships have plied the Mediterranean Sea to rescue migrants in large numbers but the number of rescue operations have dwindled as these vessels have come under fire, namely from the populist Italian government, over their action.

Italy's far-right Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has imposed a "closed ports" policy, refusing to allow migrants rescued at sea to enter his country.On Friday, however, more than 60 migrants disembarked in Italy after two boats which had left Libya faced difficulties at sea and needed assistance.

The UN agency for refugees UNHCR called for stepped-up search and rescue operations to avoid future tragedies in the Mediterranean, which it calls the "world's deadliest sea crossing"."Across the region, we need to strengthen the capacity of search and rescue operations," said Vincent Cochetel, the agency's special envoy for the Mediterranean.

"If we don't act now, we're almost certain to see more tragic events in the coming weeks and months," he warned.According to the UNHCR, the journey across the Mediterranean "is becoming increasingly fatal for those who risk it"."In the first four months of this year, one person has died (crossing the Mediterranean) for every three that have reached European shores, after departing from Libya," it said.

Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed veteran dictator Moamer Kadhafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants desperate to reach Europe.

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