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A Smuggler Boat Carrying Refugees and Migrants Capsized; Families Struck With Grief.

By: Alicia Chen

On June 8th, a flimsy blue trawler that departed from the coast of Libya and was set to arrive in Greece, carrying around 750 migrants and immigrants, capsized. Only 104 people survived and arrived at the coast of Greece. 82 bodies have been found, but the sea has claimed the majority.

47 survivors are Syrian, 43 are Egyptian, 12 are Pakistani, and two are Palestinian.

Most of the people on the boat were traveling to escape war, while others did it to provide for their family members in their homelands.

Thaer Khalid al-Rahal, the father of a four-year-old boy named Khalid, chose to board the boat for a chance to arrive in Greece in an effort to save him. After escaping from Syria, his family lived in a Jordanian refugee camp for a decade. But last year, Khalid was diagnosed with leukemia. The U.S. refugee agency promised to cover the cost of treatment. Unfortunately, the treatment never happened, and the child now needs a bone marrow transplant. His father, seeing that the refugee agency would not provide any help, made the decision to migrate to Europe in order to save money for medical treatment.

For Matloob Hussain, his journey began when he had to return to Pakistan because his Greek residency renewal was rejected. His brother, Adiil Hussain, said in an interview that “Europe doesn’t understand. We don’t leave because we want to. There is simply nothing for us in Pakistan.”

13 men left from El Na’amna, a small town not far from the capital of Egypt, Cairo. When interviewed, the families said that they were caught by surprise. It was almost impossible for many to so much as dream of escaping, as it cost 4,500 dollars per person, an unimaginable amount of money for most.

But even the lucky migrants who were able to afford the package were not granted a comfortable journey. They were treated like cargo by the smugglers that they had to bribe. All of the men embarking on this journey were so desperate that they did not see this as any sort of problem.

After speaking with Matloob Hassain, Adiil Hassain said, “He said the boat was very bad. He said they loaded people on the boat like cattle. He said he was below deck and that he preferred it so that he wouldn’t have to see that he was surrounded by water.”

The news of its capsizing leaked out on June 14. Police were unable to provide information about the people on board, though rumors spread that most were killed.

Adiil looked for his brother at a hospital where survivors were tended to. Many Pakistani survivors recognized him as “the man in the yellow shirt,” but claimed to have not seen him since the boat capsized.

Relatives were struck by grief. The family of Khalid had to take him to a hospital for a biopsy and figure out what they needed to do next in order to improve his health conditions, all while having to plan a funeral for his father without the body.

Refugees boarding the boat came from many different corners of the world, fleeing for many different reasons, but what they had in common was that they wanted a better life. They wanted their children to grow up in an environment where they could be kids, a place where they didn’t need to constantly worry about food and housing. And because of those goals, all of them were willing to risk their lives.

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