News / Europe

Hundreds of African Migrants Dead or Missing in Mediterranean

  • Body bags containing African migrants, who drowned trying to reach Italian shores, lie in a hangar of the Lampedusa airport, Italy, Oct. 3, 2013.
  • Mortuary vehicles wait outside a hangar where some of the bodies of Thursday's shipwreck are held, at the airport of Lampedusa, Italy, Oct. 4, 2013.
  • A black flag with writing reading in Italian "Vergogna" (shame) waves in the harbor of the island of Lampedusa, Italy, Oct. 4, 2013.
  • This image made from video provided by the Italian Coast Guard shows the rescue of a survivor from the ship that caught fire and sank off the island of Lampedusa, Italy, Oct. 3, 2013.
  • Rescued migrants arrive onboard a coast guard vessel at the harbor of Lampedusa, Italy, Oct. 3, 2013. (Nino Randazzo/ASP press office)
  • A woman receives assistance at the Palermo Civico hospital after being rescued off the Italian island of Lampedusa, Oct. 3, 2013.
  • Bodies of drowned migrants are lined up in the port of Lampedusa, Oct. 3, 2013.
  • This image from video shows survivors of a ship that sank being transported on an Italian Coast Guard vessel as it arrives at port, Lampedusa, Italy, Oct. 3, 2013. (Italian Coast Guard)
  • This image from video shows survivors of a ship that sank being transported on an Italian Coast Guard vessel as it arrives at port, Lampedusa, Italy, Oct. 3, 2013. (Italian Coast Guard)

Migrant Boat Capsizes Off Italian Island

TEXT SIZE - +
Al Pessin
— Hundreds of African migrants are dead or missing in the Mediterranean Sea, after a disabled boat carrying an estimated 500 people to a hoped-for better life in Europe caught fire and sank off an Italian island.

The Italian state news agency ANSA said the boat, carrying Eritrean and Somali asylum seekers, went down in flames early Wednesday after migrants tried to send a distress signal by lighting a blanket on fire.  Witnesses said the fire inadvertently ignited leaking fuel.

Hours later, television footage showed bodies recovered by Coast Guard rescuers laid out along a sea wall in the port of Lampedusa.  Rescue efforts continued into Thursday evening, with estimates of 300 people dead or missing.  ANSA reported 150 survivors.

The disaster, described as one of Italy's worst migrant maritime tragedies, came just days after 13 would-be migrants drowned off the coast of nearby Sicily after their boat sank and they tried to swim to shore.

Lampedusa, an island closer to continental Africa than to the Italian mainland, is often the destination for boats full of migrants seeking entrance to the European Union.​

The United Nations refugee agency says the boat originated in Libya.

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres expressed "shock" about the boat tragedy.  He also expressed dismay at what he called a "rising global phenomenon" of people fleeing conflict or persecution only to perish at sea.

The blog Fortress Europe, which tallies migrant deaths, says more than 6,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Africa, have died in the Sicilian Channel since 1994.

Recent Maritime Accidents Involving Migrants

-October 3, 2013:  Estimates of 300 people dead or missing after boat catches fires and capsizes near Italian island of Lampedusa. 
 
-September 27, 2013: At least 21 asylum seekers, mostly from the Middle East, killed after boat bound for Australia sinks off Indonesia's coast. 
 
-December 18, 2012: Boat carrying migrants capsized off Somali coast. U.N. Refugee agency says as many as 55 people killed.
 
-December 16, 2012: Migrant boat traveling from Turkey to Greece capsized. At least 20 people killed.
 
-September 6, 2012: Boat carrying illegal immigrants sinks near western Turkey. At least 58 people drown. 


This was the largest in a series of similar incidents this year. There was a second rescue operation on Thursday involving two smaller migrant boats off the coast of Sicily, and 13 migrants died when their boat ran aground off Sicily on Monday.

From Amnesty International, Jezerca Tigani said this latest incident is a “grim reminder” of the plight of people from Africa and the Middle East who are willing to risk their lives, and their children’s lives, to escape poverty and turmoil.

Three times as many illegal African migrants have arrived in Italy this year, compared to last year, according to the United Nations refugee agency. The country’s southern islands are an attractive, but dangerous, destination for migrants because of their proximity to the African coast.

“These are countries clearly in turmoil," said Tigani. "People are trying to get out of their trouble. They’re trying to save their families.”

Tigani added the migrants seek both safety and economic opportunity. She accused European countries of hypocrisy for expressing concern about people in poverty and conflict zones, but allowing only a few thousand to come to the continent legally. Tigani called for action to address the reasons people are willing to take the often deadly trips across the Mediterranean.

“We have to go into questions of where the aid is going, how the aid is being used in these countries, how much employment opportunities there are," she said. "Then we need to talk about proper democracy and rule of law and etcetera, etcetera," she said.

In Rome, Pope Francis described these latest deaths are a “tragedy” and a “shame,” and he called for renewed efforts to prevent similar incidents in the future.  

Watch related video:

Scores of African Migrants Killed in Boat Tragedy Off Italy's Coasti
X
October 03, 2013
The Italian coast guard says at least 92 people are dead after a boat carrying African migrants caught fire and capsized Thursday near the Italian island of Lampedusa.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid