Wednesday, March 04, 2015


On the day when the Italian Coast Guard has completed the rescue and bringing to safety of 941 migrants in the Mediterranean, we are once again witnessing politicians arguing about who should carry out patrol and rescue missions in these waters and the scale of any such operations. The Italian Mare Nostrum operation having been wound up in October, the Triton operation [coordinated by the European External Borders Agency Frontex, which may have different priorities] has been working on a much smaller scale and its ships have not patrolled near the Libyan coast, as the Italian ships did. Italy, to its credit, continues to send in rescuers close to the Libyan shore after alerting Libya to migrant boats in danger in its waters.

Thus it has been over the past two days, during which Italian Coast Guard vessels, three  merchant ships and one Triton naval unit rescued migrants in seven different operations. The migrants were travelling in five dinghies and two other boats. Sadly, one of the larger dinghies, which was carrying around 130 people, capsized 50 miles north of Libya and ten bodies were recovered.

The rescued migrants are said to be of Syrian, Palestinian, Tunisian and Sub-Saharan nationality. Among them were 30 children and 50 women, one of whom is pregnant and needed urgent medical evacuation by the Coast Guard on Lampedusa.  The migrants have been brought to Porto Empedocle, Augusta and Pozzallo today. Pozzallo has again received the saddest delivery - that of bodies - a sight which always causes great sorrow in the town.

The Court at Siracusa has opened an investigation into the deaths and it is being treated as a murder enquiry. That said, just what is it going to take to get the EU as a whole to act on the Mediterranean migration issue? How much longer are other countries,including my own, going to stand by and watch desperate people die?  Italy has said it will not abandon migrants in danger at sea but the rest of the EU continues to abandon Italy.

Gauri van Gulik of Amnesty International said today,

"Merchant vessels and national Coast Guard have again responded valiantly to the immense and growing challenge of saving the lives of vulnerable migrants but that falls far short of sufficient in the face of this growing humanitarian crisis. Without a European search and rescue operation, the European Union's approach looks increasingly haphazard and negligent."

Update at 15.15 on 5.3.15
The death toll from the capsized boat now appears to be around 50. Two people have been arrested on suspicion of people-trafficking.


Whispering Walls said...

This is such a problem WL.

annechung said...

Oh my god, I just watched the news about it. I saw the rows and rows of coffins and body bags. Its so sad!

James Higham said...

Thanks for this update - it's a major issue and I see no solution.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Yes, and getting worse, WW. Hi, Anne. Yes, it's terrible. Nor do I, James.


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