Monday, September 15, 2014


The news that there have been two major new migration tragedies in the Mediterranean is tonight breaking all over the world and one of these may, according to an IOM [International Organisation for Migration] spokesperson, be "the worst shipwreck in years", for this time we may not be dealing with an accident, but with cold-blooded murder. 

Neither incident occurred in Italian waters but both affect Italy, so I will report them here. I should emphasise that reports of the incidents differ in detail and that the sequence of events has yet to be confirmed .

In the more widely reported incident, which IOM believes happened on Wednesday but which UNHCR thinks happened on Friday, it is possible that up to 500 migrants died after people traffickers deliberately sank their boat off Malta when an argument broke out on board. According to two Palestinian survivors of the wreck who have been brought to Sicily, the migrants started their journey towards Europe from Egypt and were forced to change boats several times. Finally the traffickers,who were travelling in another boat, ordered the migrants to transfer to a vessel which they judged too small and when they refused, the traffickers rammed the migrant boat until it capsized. 

Nine survivors were rescued by Maltese and Greek ships but the other passengers, of Syrian, Palestinian, Egyptian and Sudanese nationality, are feared dead.

The Italian police have begun an enquiry into the circumstances of the wreck.

In another incident which took place on Sunday, a boat carrying 250 migrants sank off Tanjaura, east of Tripoli. The British press are reporting that 26 survivors have been rescued by the Libyan Navy but La Repubblica puts the figure at 36. All these migrants are said to be from North Africa and many of them are women,  This rescue has proved difficult as the Libyan Navy say they do not have specialist boats for the task.

A further 18 people may have died in the wreck of another migrant boat which got into trouble in international waters 300 miles south-east of Malta on Friday night, bringing the total number of deaths in the Mediterranean  in the past few days to over 700 if the rammed boat story is confirmed.

UNHCR Special Envoy Angelina Jolie, who has been visiting Maltese Naval Rescue HQ, said on Monday,

"We all need to wake up to the scale of this crisis. There is a direct link between the conflicts in Syria and elsewhere and the rise in deaths at sea in the Mediterranean. We have to understand what drives people to take the fearful step of risking their children's lives on crowded, unsafe vessels; it is the overwhelming desire to find refuge. It is also part of a bigger problem - the soaring numbers of people displaced by conflicts around the world today, which now stands at over 51 million. Unless we address the root causes of these conflicts, the numbers of refugees dying or unable to find protection will continue to rise."

The Italian Navy rescued 2,380 migrants in the Mediterranean during the weekend.


Lee said...

It is correct - the root causes have to be addressed...sooner rather than later....once and for all. They should have been successfully addressed before now...but it is such a complex, difficult problem.

I do so hope good prevails; but it's going to be a long, long, long road. I'm not alone in my hopes.

And there still will be some who will be against such efforts...efforts that, once again, have commenced. We cannot allow what is happening to continue. Murder and murderers shouldn't be allowed to roam free nor should they be allowed to hold the rest of the world to ransom.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I couldn't agree more, Lee.

James Higham said...

Came straight here when I saw that. Good you've covered it. I'll quote from you.

Liz Hinds said...

And countries hesitate over giving these desperate people entry. How dire must your situation be to take such risks?

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thanks, James. Hi, Liz. Unimaginably dire.


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