By: Jingwei Zhao
On June 14th, 750 migrants ended up in one of the deadliest shipwrecks in the Mediterranean. Once the 750 passengers boarded the trawler, only 104 of them survived, with 82 bodies recovered and the rest lost in sea.
For one victim named Thaer Khalid al-Rahal, the story started with cancer. Four-year-old Khalid had a difficult upbringing in a Jordanian refugee camp after fleeing from the war in Syria. At the camp, doctors told refugees that the UN refugee agency could help with the treatment that they needed. Unfortunately, that proved not to be the case as agency funds lessened, leaving Khalid’s cancer even worse. After learning that the child needed a bone-marrow transplant, his family headed to Europe so his father could earn enough money to save his son.
However, this process would not be easy for the father, Mohamed Abdelnasser. According to Abdulrahman Yousif al-Rahal, Khalid’s cousin, Thaer believed that he did not have any other choice if he wanted the transplant. While on the journey to Europe, Abdelnasser gradually realized that the money he earned as a carpenter would not be enough to support his wife and two sons.
Another victim in the shipwreck was Matloob Hussain, whose Greek residency renewal had been rejected. This led to him being sent back to Pakistan, where his salary could barely feed the 20 extended family members as a devastated economy worsened. His brother, Adiil Hussain, said, “Europe doesn’t understand. We don’t leave because we want to. There is simply nothing for us in Pakistan.”
Around half of the passengers aboard the boat were believed to have been from Pakistan. The country’s interior minister reported that an estimated 350 Pakistanis boarded the boat, with another 47 that were Syrian, 43 Egyptian, 12 Pakistani, and two Palestinian. Some of the passengers were escaping wars, while others were family breadwinners who put their own lives on the line to help others back home. We know of the reasons they undertook such risks from the survivors in Greece and relatives of the dead in unstable Pakistan. This led to communities from North Africa to South Asia fearing being drawn to illegal human smuggling networks. All of this has led to the 750 victims who were in one of the deadliest shipwrecks ever in the Mediterranean.