Boat capsize in Mediterranean: Names surface, bodies don’t

DHAKA (The Daily Star/ANN) - The names of those feared dead in the boat capsize in the Mediterranean last week are surfacing, but the chances of recovering their bodies are fading

The names of those feared dead in the boat capsize in the Mediterranean last week are surfacing, but the chances of recovering their bodies are fading, possibly burying the last hope of their relatives to see their loved ones for one last time.

Sajib Hossain, 21, from Madaripur, is one of the 39 still missing in the sea off the Tunisian coast since the accident in the wavy sea in the deep night on Thursday. 

“I want to see my son’s body,” sobbed Baby Khatun, mother of Sajib.

She had talked to Sajib by phone on May 8, the day before the fateful night, when he told his mother that he would leave for Italy from Libya by boat the next day.

“But we came to know from another brother of mine in Italy that Sajib died in the sea,” said Mim Akter, elder sister of Sajib, urging that at least his body be brought back home.

Her call is echoed by relatives of other victims from different districts of the country. However, that hope is fading as Bangladeshi officials who visited Tunisia following the incident say it is highly unlikely that any more bodies would be recovered.

Since the accident, Tunisian coastguard rescued 16 migrants, including 14 Bangladeshis, and only one body. He was identified as Uttam Kumar Das, from Naria in Shariatpur.

“Chances of recovering any more bodies are very thin,” ASM Ashraful Islam, labour counsellor at the Bangladesh Mission in Libya, told The Daily Star yesterday.

Of the rest 39 victims, at least 17 are from Sylhet. Others are from Madaripur, Shariatpur, Kishoreganj, Moulvibazar, Sunamganj, Narsingdi, Habiganj and Noakhali. 

At a press briefing in the capital yesterday, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen released the identities of the victims feared dead. He also disclosed the names of the 14 survivors. 

He said there were around 130 migrants, who included about 100 Bangladeshis. Others were Egyptians and other African nationals in the ship that left the Libyan port city of Zuwara for Italy on the evening of May 9.

In the middle of the sea, they were transferred to two boats. One boat had some 50 migrants and the other around 80. The one with more migrants was overcrowded and capsized. There is information that the other boat reached Italy, the minister said. 

Of the 14 Bangladeshi survivors, four are undergoing treatment at a Tunisian hospital, while the rest was taken to a shelter camp of the Tunisian Red Crescent, he added.

Momen said the Bangladeshis had been taken to the Libyan capital Tripoli via Dubai and Sharjah of the United Arab Emirates and Alexandria of Egypt.

“Once in Tripoli, the human trafficking gangs had confined the Bangladeshis. They were also tortured for ransom from their families back home,” he said.

The government has identified three brothers from Noakhali and two others from Madaripur who are involved in human trafficking. Family members of the victims who are from Sylhet also identified some others involved in human trafficking, he said.

“We’ll try to take tough action against the human traffickers,” Momen said.

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