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Boat Sinks Enroute To Italy and Hundreds of Passengers Drown

By: Marina Han

On June 8th, hundreds of passengers boarded a poorly made fishing trawler headed to Italy, which sank 6 days later in the Mediterranean Sea. So far, there are only 104 known survivors and 82 bodies recovered, meaning the majority of the passengers’ bodies have not been recovered.

The trawler, which left from Tobruk, Libya, was crowded with hundreds of passengers. They were on it for multiple reasons, such as earning money, moving for less money, escaping war, and more. The people manning the trawler were actually smugglers, who said that they would use a “good boat.” Obviously, that was not true at all. It is estimated that as many as 350 Pakistanis were on the trawler and there were many children, too. Out of the known survivors from the trawler, 47 are Syrian, 43 are Egyptian, 12 are Pakistani and 2 are Palestinian. But they are only a small fraction of the numerous people who boarded the boat.

Everyone had their own backstory and reasons for them embarking the trawler. Thaer Khalid al-Rahal had lived with his family at a refugee camp in Jordan for a decade after escaping a war in Syria. Unfortunately, his 4-year-old son, Khalid, was diagnosed with leukemia just last year. Khalid needed a bone-marrow transplant, but his father could not afford it. Therefore, he had to travel to Europe to earn money for his son. “Thaer thought he didn’t have a choice,” stated Abdulrahman Yousif al-Rahal, Thaer’s cousin, to Washington Post journalists. It must have been so hard for him to leave his family.

Mohamed Abdelnasser, 27, lived in Europe and realized that his money would not support his family any longer.

Matloob Hussain, 42, had to leave Greece for Pakistan, where he decided that there was nothing for him there. “Europe doesn’t understand,” his brother Adiil Hussain said to Washington Post journalists. “We don’t leave because we want to.” Matloob had to leave to get a better life.

Thirteen men left El Na’amna because of the cheaper price of the journey compared to other ways of transportation.

A man named Abdelnasser left his town, Ibrash, to join a packed car with 29 other young men to Libya.

These men were only some of the huge number of passengers that needed to leave their country for their own sake or their families’ sake.

Not only was the boat ride chaotic, but so was the wait. According to the family members that spoke with the passengers during the waiting period, the time spent waiting in Libya was harder than the migrants expected. The migrants themselves shared to Washington Post journalists that the smugglers had treated them like goods to be traded. Migrants who had scheduled to meet their intermediaries in Benghazi had to ride large trucks transporting them to the desert. There, a survivor said to Washington Post journalists that a house there had “a big yard and big walls and people at the door with guns.” Maybe the yard was big, but the house certainly wasn’t - people had to sleep outside. Everyone was tired and desperate for the trawler to come. One 24-year-old man named Bilal Hassan tried to cheer people up by reciting poems to the other migrants. But it appeared in a video that not many actually felt better.

The passengers’ relatives could tell that they were getting more desperate as the days of waiting continued. Some of the migrants called their families and told them that they did not trust the smugglers at all. Others told relatives that they were fine and reassured them. Thaer Khalid al-Rahal, the man trying to earn money for his son, spoke to his wife every day and she could see that his mood continually darkened. He worried about his son Khalid and Khalid worried about him. The young child in Jordan wanted to see his father once again. But Thaer only texted back that he did not know when he would return. “I’ll manage to get the money,” he stated. He wanted to save his son’s life because he cared so much about him. However, that opportunity ended when the trawler sank.

It was terribly hard for people to carry on after getting notified that the boat that their relatives were on had sunk. The mother of 23-year-old Amr Elsayed, who went on the voyage, told Washington Post journalists that she contained so much grief that she felt like she was burning. Matloob’s brother, Adiil, spent days trying to get information about his brother’s whereabouts. He went to hospitals that didn’t let him in and reception centers in which several Pakistanis described Matloob as the “man in the yellow T-shirt.” Although no one had a clue as to where Matloob was, Adiil still had hope. His eyes were red from crying and he carried around wrinkled pictures of his brother. He told Matloob’s 10-year-old daughter that her father was in the hospital but she kept on asking why she could not speak with him. Khalid also wanted to know where his father was but no one knew how to break the news to him. It is all so devastating.

It is so difficult to imagine how the relatives must feel when knowing that a family member, who was just trying to claim a better life for themselves or for their own family, came to such an unjust end. It must be hard for the survivors to think about all the people that did not have the same fate as them. The world needs to better understand how so many people are suffering about new things every single day.

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