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Irregular Migration Risks for Marginalized Communities in Pakistan

On April 7, 2023, Shahida Raza, a 27-year-old woman from the Hazara community in Quetta, drowned in a boat wreck accident while attempting to reach Europe in search of a better future. Shahida Raza, also known as Chintoo, was an important Pakistan Women’s Hockey Team member and played departmental hockey for Pakistan Railways. She was also an exceptional football player and represented Balochistan United in women’s football. Her tragic death has deeply saddened the Pakistani sports community and the Hazara community, which has faced deadly attacks in the past.

The Incident and Its Consequences

According to reports, Raza was on a boat from Turkey to Italy with dreams of a better future. However, the boat crashed into a sea cliff while anchored in the Crotone region, causing more than 200 migrants to drown, including around 40 Pakistanis, most of whom were from Gujrat. Raza was the mother of an infant girl, but her daughter was not with her at the time of the accident.

The Hazara community, which has faced persecution and attacks in the past, has expressed deep sorrow and outrage over the incident. The community leaders have urged the government to take measures to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

The Pakistani sports community also expressed grief over Raza’s tragic death. The Pakistan Hockey Federation President Brigadier (retd) Khalid Khokhar, Secretary General Syed Haider Hussain, PHF Women Wing Syeda Shehla Raza, Tanzila Amir Cheema, and others have expressed their condolences and remembered Raza as a talented and hardworking athlete.

Dangers of Migration and Its Impact 

The incident again highlighted the dangers migrants face while trying to reach Europe for a better life. Migrants often embark on dangerous journeys, risking their lives in overcrowded and unseaworthy boats, hoping for a better future. Pakistan’s situation is not unique, as many countries worldwide face similar challenges.

However, the incident has also shed light on the vulnerability of certain communities in Pakistan. The Hazara community, in particular, has faced deadly attacks and continues to struggle with discrimination and marginalization. The loss of Shahida Raza, an accomplished athlete and a mother, has brought attention to the difficulties faced by the Hazara community and the impact of migration on their lives.

Government’s Required Response 

The Pakistani government has condemned the incident and expressed condolences to the victims’ families. However, many have criticized the government’s response as insufficient and called for concrete measures to prevent such tragedies from happening in the future.

To address this issue, the government must take a multi-faceted approach.

  • Firstly, there needs to be a greater emphasis on creating economic opportunities and improving living standards in Pakistan. This would reduce the push factors that drive people to migrate in the first place.
  • Secondly, the government needs to work with international organizations and foreign governments to address the issue of irregular migration. This could involve improving border control measures and implementing more effective search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Thirdly, there needs to be greater attention paid to the specific needs of vulnerable communities, such as the Hazara community, who face discrimination and marginalization. This could involve targeted support programs to improve education and employment opportunities and greater efforts to protect these communities from violence and persecution.

The loss of Shahida Raza is a tragic reminder of the risks associated with irregular migration and the need to take a comprehensive approach to address the issue. It is essential to prioritize the needs of vulnerable communities and work towards creating a safer and more prosperous future for all.

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