The Malta Independent 1 July 2016, Friday

Families of 1996 boat tragedy off Malta still waiting for justice

Tuesday, 19 January 2016, 08:07 Last update: about 6 months ago

The families of people who died close to Malta nearly 20 years ago when the ship Yiohan sunk on Christmas Day are still waiting for justice, reports in the India media said yesterday.

As many as 283 people went missing while on their way to Italy through an illegal water channel 20 years ago. The Central Bureau of India had registered a case against 29 persons in 1997 for cheating, forgery and human trafficking. Seven of the accused have died during the pendency of the case.

The kin of the victims and activists, who are pursuing the case, told the India Tribune that nothing had changed since then and they were still fighting for justice in a CBI court.

In the report published yesterday, the India Tribune said that Balwant Singh Khera, who had formed the Malta Boat Tragedy Mission, said, “The progress of the case has been a great disappointment. Not even a charge-sheet has been filed in the past 19 years against the 29 accused. The families have already lost hope and are now not even keeping a track of the case”.

“The only reprieve so far is that three of the accused have been punished in Italy. The Italian government has also passed a budget for setting up a memorial wherein the debris of the sunken ship Yiohan was recovered from the Mediterranean,” he added.

His close aide, Om Singh Sathiana, too mentioned, “The affected families have just got a compensation of Rs 50,000 (€680) after Khera relentlessly raised the issue at different fora”.

“The Punjab Police has failed to curb illegal immigration by not making stringent laws against the travel agents and were allowing them to go scot free”, said Ram Singh Insaaf, who had then spearheaded the campaign for the victims.

Many of the victims were from Kala Sanghian, Chitti and Bidhipur villages. A film based on the incident too has been screened. As days stretched to years, the families just gave up.

Narain Singh Chitti of Chitti village, who lost his only son in the tragedy, said that it was unfortunate that a similar incident had occurred after 19 years. “It is sad tale of affairs that the travel agents continue to play with the lives of innocent youth of and the Punjab Police is apathetic,” he said.

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