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

China’s Influence Grows With New Infrastructure Bank

Multibillion-dollar China-backed and BRICS-supported Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank seen as possible challenger to such lenders as IMF, World Bank More

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

Rabbi Michel Serfaty makes the rounds in his friendship bus to encourage dialogue and break down barriers between the two groups More

Post-deal Iran Leaders Need 'Economic Momentum' to Solidify

Economists say deal could inject more than $100 billion into coffers - not enough to entirely rescue ailing economy - but maybe adequate to create 'economic momentum' 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.
US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impacti
X
Michael Bowman
June 28, 2015 10:05 PM
Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video US Gay Marriage Ruling Yields Real-life Impact

Friday’s landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States is an outcome few thought possible just years ago, and shows a nation that increasingly tolerates and even celebrates the hopes and aspirations of gay people. VOA’s Michael Bowman spoke to a same-sex couple that will benefit from the high court ruling, and to a Christian scholar who is apprehensive about its potential consequences for America’s faith community.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Syrian Refugees Return to Tal Abyad

Syrian refugees in Turkey confirm they left their hometown of Tal Abyad because of intense fighting and coalition airstrikes, not because Kurdish fighters were engaged in ethnic cleansing, as some Turkish officials charged. VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer, in Tal Abyad, finds that civilians coming back to the town agree, as we hear in this report narrated by Roger Wilkison.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Chemical-Sniffing Technology Fights Australia's Graffiti Vandals

Cities and towns all over the world spend huge amounts of resources battling graffiti writers who deface buildings, public transport vehicles and even monuments. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, hope a new chemical-sniffing technology finally will stop vandals from scribbling on walls in the passenger areas of commuter trains. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Cambodia Struggling to Curb Child Labor

Earlier this year a United Nations report found 10 percent of Cambodian children aged 7-14 are working – one of the highest rates in the region – and said one in four children in that age bracket are forced to quit school to help their families. Although the child labor rate has dropped over the past decade, Cambodia has a lot more to do – including keeping more children in school. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.

VOA Blogs