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Tunisian boat capsizes: 39 Bangladeshis identified

  • Published at 02:36 pm May 15th, 2019
Inflatable boat
File photo of inflatable boat that sank off the coast of Libya resulting in many deaths of migrants AFP

The boat capsized on May 9

The Foreign Ministry has released a list of 39 Bangladeshis with their identities, who went missing after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea. 

Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen gave the statement briefing reporters at the ministry on Wednesday.

On May 9, two boats – one carrying 50 and another 75 people – set out at the same time from Zouara, Libya. One possibly reached Italy, while the other capsized in the Mediterranean Sea, near Zarzis of Tunisia. 

Of the 75 migrants on board, 54 were Bangladeshis, and  40 of them are feared dead. 

The minister said of the 54 Bangladeshi migrants, 14 were rescued. 

Of the rescued, four are undergoing treatment in a Tunisian hospital, and 10 are under the care of Red Crescent, the foreign minister added.

" Bangladesh mission officials in Libya went to the survivors and got the information," the minister said. "The list we issued is based on their report."

The government is investigating the travel agencies that facilitated the transportation of the migrants to Italy or other countries in Europe, he said.

The minister said: “We have already sealed off 23 travel agencies in Sylhet. Now we are investigating several other travel agencies in Madaripur and Noakhali.”

The minister disclosed this to the media, citing a report prepared by the Bangladesh mission in Tripoli. 

All of the 14 rescued Bangladeshis told embassy officials that they entered Libya 4-6 months earlier by sea to go to Europe with the help of brokers for huge sums of money, said the minister citing the report.

They were confined by the agents of Bangladeshi brokers as soon as they stepped on Libyan soil, said the report.

The agents would torture them and the victims were forced to bring more money from home, the minister described, adding that they were confined to a camp in Zuwarah for some days, guarded by the human traffickers so that they could not escape.

In the early morning of May 9, the brokers put 150 migrants, including 130 Bangladeshis on a fishing boat to Europe over the Mediterranean. The boat sailed the whole night and next morning the traffickers shifted the victims to two small boats. 

The second boat had 70-80 passengers and most of them were Bangladeshi. Traumatized, the rescued Bangladeshis could not confirm their numbers when the traffickers forced them on board the small boats. 

Within ten minutes of sailing, the overloaded boat capsized, said the report. All of the victims then tried to stay afloat grabbing oil drums and parts of the broken boat. After eight or nine hours, some Tunisian fishermen rescued them from the sea. They were then handed over to the Red Crescent with the help of the local Coast Guard. 

However, of the rescued, one died.

Also Read- 'Not sure of actual death toll in Tunisia boat capsize'

Bangladesh Embassy officials in Libya who visited the rescued Bangladeshis in Zarzis, Tunisia, found that two of the victims had severe burn injuries and the hot oil drums they had grabbed were actually beside the engine of the boat.

Doctors at the hospital there told the officials that their burn injuries were improving. Two others, who also sustained injuries, were also bring treated. 

Four of the rescued have been undergoing treatment at a government hospital in Zarzis and the rest have been provided shelter at a Red Crescent center. 

The Bangladeshi team identified the deceased at the hospital morgue as Uttam Das of Shariatpur.

The report also said that a Bangladesh embassy team will visit Sfax city in Tunisia as they have been informed by the local Red Crescent that there were three more bodies. The team will find out if any of them are from Bangladesh.

The embassy authorities were told that the first boat had already reached Italy, but the information could not be cross checked.

Traffickers in Libya have strong connections with Bangladeshi brokers

Sk Sekander Ali, Bangladesh Ambassador to Libya, in his report to the foreign secretary, said they are yet to receive information about the Bangladeshi brokers who sent the victims there.

However, the rescued victims named three brothers-- Rummon, Ripon, and Rubel—as brokers, who run a big racket. They also have strong network in Istanbul and Libya.

The victims also named Nuri and Miraz of Madaripur, but could not provide any further details about them. They also maintain connections with militia troops in war torn Libya, said the report.

Missing Bangladeshis are: Sabbir (Kishoreganj), Jalal Uddin (Kishoreganj), Sajal (Bhairab), Ali Akbar (Shibchar), Zakir Hawlader (Shibchar), Sahed (Rajoir), Naem (Rajoir), Shawpan, Sajib and Nadim (Rajoir), Suman (Shariatpur), Monir (Shariatpur), Rajib (Shariatpur), Parvez (Shariatpur),  Jahid (Narsingdi), Abdul Aziz (Sylhet), Ahmad (Sylhet), Liton Ahmad (Sylhet), Ayaz Ahmed (Fenchuganj), Khokon (Sylhet), Momin Ahmed (Sylhet), Dulal Ahmed (Sylhet), Zillur Rahman (Sylhet), Kamran Ahmed Maruf (Sylhet), Rokon Ahmed (Bishwanath), Afzal Hossain (Sylhet), Kashem (Golapganj), Indrajit (Sylhet), Sujan Ahmed (Sylhet), Shoeb (Beanibazar) and Sazu (Sylhet), Maulana Mahbubur Rahman (Sunamganj), Najir Ahmed (Sunamganj), Hafiz Shamim Ahmed (Moulvibazar), Jewel (Moulvibazar) and Fahad Ahmed) Moulvibazar), Muktadir (Habiganj). Abdur Rahim (Noakhali) and Nasir Ahmed (Chatkhil).