Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said so far one dead and 39 missing in the boat capsized in the Mediterranean Sea have been identified as Bangladeshi nationals. “Our officials there so far identified one dead as Bangladeshi national while confirmed that at least 39 more compatriots are missing,” he told newsmen at a briefing at the Foreign Ministry.
The minister said Bangladesh officials of Libya mission, who are now in Tunisia, gathered the information about the dead and the missing Bangladeshis from statements of survivors of the boat that carried nearly 80 illegal migrants. “So far, one dead was identified as Bangladeshi national. The deceased was identified as Uttam Das from Noria upazila in Shariatpur district,” Momen said.
A total of 16 people were rescued by Tunisian fishermen after several hours of the boat capsized while among the survivors 14 are Bangladeshi nationals, he added. Among the survivors, four are now undergoing treatment with critical injuries at a Tunisian hospital while 10 others are staying at the Red Crescent camp there.
“Our officials there are working to collect more information about the missing people” he said, adding, “It’s still uncertain how many Bangladeshi nationals are still missing,” he said. According to information receiving here from Tunisia, the foreign minister said, the tragedy unfolded after some 150 people including 130 Bangladeshis had left Zuwara on the northwestern Libyan coast late Thursday on a large boat.
They were transferred to two smaller boats and the first boat had been able to reach offshore of Italy while the second one carrying some 70 to 80 people sunk off Tunisia, Momen said. “As per the survivors’ statements, they were forced board on the small boat. Even some were physically assaulted by traffickers for denying to board on the small boat,” he said.
The foreign minister said the government will bring bodies of the Bangladeshi nationals back home whenever be found in Tunisia. Momen said the law enforcing agencies have already started work to identify the local human trafficking rackets here who had instigated the victims to migrate to Italy illegally.
He said 23 fraud travel agencies in Sylhet have already been sealed off suspecting their involvement in human trafficking while a three-brother syndicate from Noakhali was identified as responsible for sending some of the victims.
The foreign minister said officials of Bangladesh embassy in Libya went to Tunisia after the incident and they are keeping contact with the Red Crescent there.
Currently, Momen said, Bangladesh is not sending any workers to war-torn Libya. These Bangladeshi nationals entered Libya via turkey and different countries of Middle Eastern countries with the help of the human traffickers, he added.
“We have been informed that the traffickers even tortured them in Libya to get more money from their families at home. Those men were kept in Libya by the gang as like as hostages,” he added. Momen laid emphasis on taking coordinated efforts involving all relevant ministries and immigration police so that no Bangladeshi national can cross the country’s border with the intention of illegal migration.
The identified missing Bangladeshis are – Abdul Aziz, Ahmed, Liton Ahmed, Khokon, Afzal Hossain, Momin Ahmed, Dilal Ahmed, Kashem, Zillur Rahman, Kamran Ahmed Maruf, Rukon Ahmed, Ayaz Ahmed, Sujon Ahmed, Indrajit, Jewel, Shoyeb, Saju from Sylhet, Maolana Mahbubur Rahman, Nazir Ahmed from Sunamganj, Hafiz Shamim Ahmed, Fahad Ahmed from Moulibazar, Muktadir from Habiganj, Ali Akbar, Zakir Hawlader, Shahed, Nayeem, Shapon, Nadim, Sajib from Madaripur, Sabbir, Jalaluddin, Sajal from Kishorganj, Abdur Rahim, owlader, Nasir Ahmed, Munir, Rajib, Parvez, Sumon, from Shariatpur and Jahid from Narshindhi.