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Grief envelops a secluded Pakistani mountain village following the Greek migrant boat disaster.

There is a palpable sense of despair in the Pakistani-administered Kashmir village of Bandali, where over two dozen locals have vanished after leaving for better opportunities abroad.

Overcrowded fishing trawler Adriana sank last week off the coast of Greece, killing at least 81 people and left hundreds more missing. Families battle back tears as they wait to hear what may have happened to their loved ones.

It is unclear from where the Pakistani government obtained the information that over 300 of its citizens had perished in the disaster. According to a statement released by Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency on Tuesday, 88 persons have been reported missing by their families.

Bandali, with a population of 12,000, is only one of several towns in Pakistan that is struggling from the calamity; villagers estimate that roughly 22 people from this village alone are still missing.

Now, their loved ones have to wait in agony while Greek authorities try to figure out who is dead by scrolling through WhatsApp chats on their phones that have gone silent. They are all victims of the refugee crisis that is sweeping the European Union as tens of thousands of people flee war, persecution, and poverty.

Saeed Anwar reported that four members of his family, including his brother Abdul Jabbar, were presumed dead. The four men were all smiles in the last selfie they texted to Anwar’s phone before they vanished, their sights set on Europe.

Anwar informed that Jabbar, 36, paid a human trafficker over $7,500 to help him get to Italy. Jabbar wanted to offer his two young girls a better life, therefore he was willing to travel thousands of kilometers via risky routes. Jabbar took out without his two daughters, who stayed behind in the village.

Approximately 220 million people live in Pakistan, which is currently experiencing its greatest economic crisis in decades. Essentials like food and gas are getting more and more expensive, and there is a severe shortage of available jobs.

It’s unknown what path Jabbar and his three relatives took. They were bound for Italy, but they landed in Libya days before the doomed boat left.

Anwar and Jabbar’s phone chats in the days preceding up to the catastrophe shed insight on the bleak circumstances under which travelers must brave a journey controlled by a profitable and all too often ruthless international smuggling network.

Anwar’s brother gave him a video from Libya showing over one hundred men sleeping in a cramped room, all lying face down on the floor.

Anwar claimed that the refugees were kept in “crowded conditions” and that they were often left hungry for up to three days before being given anything to eat.

The United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) estimates that 750 men, women, and children were on the boat when it sank last week.

According to interviews with Greek survivors, the ship had three levels packed to capacity. The hardest part was being trapped on the boat’s lowest deck, where it was difficult for passengers to escape.

Survivors claimed that the lower deck had many Pakistanis.

A perilous trip

various people from the Middle East, Asia, and Africa try to cross the Mediterranean, and the various islands off the coast of Greece are a crucial stop along the way.

Greek authorities’ response to the incident has been criticized, and unsettling questions have been raised about the attitudes of European countries regarding migrants.

Last week, Greek authorities refuted rumors that the boat had sunk while being towed to shore by the coast guard.

Authorities said at first that the coast guard kept a safe distance, but when they threw a rope to the ship to “stabilize it and see if it needed help,” the ship “refused” their help.

The guy whose three relatives were on board, Tarek Aldroobi, told that he saw Greek authorities towing the vessel with ropes, but that the ropes were attached in the “wrong places,” causing the ship to sink.

One Bandali shopkeeper, Raja Aqeel, prayed for the families still waiting for news of their loved ones.

His own brother risked the trip from Pakistan to Libya, but “luckily” lived since he avoided the sinking boat.

Three months after his initial departure for Europe, Aqeel is making last-ditch efforts to bring his brother home.

EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said that while Greek authorities have recovered the bodies of 81 people, hundreds more are still missing, making this disaster one of the deadliest in the Mediterranean.

Johansson has criticized the “smugglers” who facilitate individuals boarding the vessels.

She emphasized that the refugees were not being sent to Europe, but rather to their deaths. This is exactly what they are doing, and we must take immediate action to stop it.

Pakistani authorities claim to have begun an anti-trafficking crackdown, with the arrest of over 20 “human smugglers” and “more than five traffickers.”

Special teams have been formed in the cities of Islamabad, Lahore, Gujrat, Gujranwala, and Rawalpindi, according to the country’s investigating body.

Monday’s statement from Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission described the shipwreck deaths as “avoidable.”

It asked the government to “take responsibility for its part in this disaster” and also said, “The lack of economic opportunities in the country forces more and more people to take their chances on these routes without knowing the risk.”

Those responsible for the catastrophe “should be a stark warning to the government that it hasn’t stopped a long-running and grave violation of human rights,” the report added.

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