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
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 3:01 PM
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

Australia-Cambodia Resettlement Agreement Raises Concerns

Agreement calls for Cambodia to accept refugees in return for $35 million in aid and reflects Australia’s harder line approach towards asylum seekers and refugees More

India Looks to Become Arms Supplier Instead of Buyer

US hopes India can become alternative to China for countries looking to buy weapons, but experts question growth potential of Indian arms industry More

Earth Day Concert, Rally Draws Thousands in Washington

President Obama also took up the issue Saturday in his weekly address, saying there 'no greater threat to our planet than climate change' 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.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs