The latest balance of the tragedy is 330 dead. Most were from Senegal and Mali. Amongst the victims a new born child – born on the boat – and his young mother, and a 12 years old boy.
According to 9 survivors, now in the ‘accommodation’ centre of Lampedusa, on Saturday in Libya they were forced on 4 dingy boats at gunpoint, 100 people per boat, The sea was very rough, with waves of 8 / 9 meters. Monday afternoon, according to the testimony of the survivors, a dingy capsized in the Channel of Sicily. Another had deflated before, creating panic aboard. Over 200 people were lost at sea this way. On Monday, a third dingy was rescued by the Italian Navy. 76 migrants were saved but 29 others died of cold, 7 before and 22 after the rescue. A fourth dingy is still missing and there are no news, but at this stage there is no hope to find any survivors.
Another immense tragedy caused by Europe’s inhuman immigration policies.
This is the first result of the end of the military / humanitarian operation Mare Nostrum by the Italian Navy, now replaced by the Frontex operation Triton. Mare Nostrum were very efficient in rescuing boats in distress: they saved the lives of over 120.000 people. Triton do not have their resources – their budget is 1/3 of that of Mare Nostrum. Worst still, they do not have the mandate to operate outside Italian territorial waters. In a letter from the 9th of December 2014, Klaus Rösler, director of Operations of Frontex, attacked the Italian authorities for assigning vessels “into zones outside the operational area of Triton”. This “would not correspond to the operational plan” and not every SOS-call needed to be acted upon, Rösler continued. He points to the responsibility of the Libyan coastguards which, as it is known, do not operate anymore, due to renewed war-like conflicts. In other words, Rösler has unambiguously appealed to let refugees and migrants die at sea.
Passing ships can still rescue people in international waters, at their own expenses. It is not a crime and it is also endorsed by the code of the sea, which obliges to assist vessels in distress – though ship captains and fishermen in the past have been charged with the crime of aiding illegal immigration. However the absence of patrol boats in international waters delays rescues, causing mass deaths of migrants and making operations much more dangerous also for the rescuers.
The utterly sad and utterly shameful spectacle of coffins arriving in Lampedusa has resumed.
How comes they were forced on dinghies at gun point? The route via Libya is favourite again, after accords between Italy and the Egyptian regime to stop migration. Post-Ghaddafi Lybia is in a state of total chaos, with two main warring factions fighting each other. Criminal organizations and unscrupulous smugglers are running the country.
On the conditions on Libya’s immigration detention centres, built by the will of EU and Italy, and financed by them, read the Human Rights Watch report:
(as for the recommendations, the best recommendation would be not to ‘reform’- that is an impossibility, but to shut these infamous prisons for immigrants down)
links to previous articles:
Deaths in the Mediterranean
South of Lampedusa