News / Europe

N. African Migrants Risk Lives to Reach Italian Island

A man fleeing the unrest in Tunisia looks on as he and others arrive at the southern Italian island of Lampedusa (file photo)
A man fleeing the unrest in Tunisia looks on as he and others arrive at the southern Italian island of Lampedusa (file photo)

Multimedia

Audio
Henry Ridgwell

More than 30,000 migrants have arrived from north Africa on the tiny southern Italian island of Lampedusa, so far, this year.  Most of the migrants leave the coasts of Tunisia and Libya onboard rickety fishing boats.  Thousands of people have died making the journey.  Despite the dangers, the ongoing violence in Libya is forcing many more people to set sail for European shores.



As their boat lies crashed on the rocky shore of Lampedusa, the migrants onboard are forced to jump into the cold waters to save their lives. Italian rescue teams - together with local fishermen - form a human chain to help the migrants onshore.

Among the passengers are pregnant women and even babies who are literally thrown off the boat to the coast guard divers waiting in the waves below.


“We were about 600 passengers in the boat," said Peter Drry from Ghana who was working in Libya.  "When our compass got lost [broke], so when we were coming, there was no control. But fortunately we were rescued by the Italian navy. Our boat then hits a rock so we just fell into the water, into the sea, and finally we survived. I don’t know how to swim, but when it happened, I just tried my best!”

Drry and some of the migrants were given shelter at a temporary center beside the docks.  Drry explains why they took such a risky journey from the Libyan capital Tripoli.

“Ask my junior brother here. They attacked us in our house,' he explained. "They beat him everywhere so he collapsed and we took him to hospital. He was in hospital for 2 months and then we took him out of there and we made the journey here.”

Guy Picanor is from Burkina Faso.

“Libya is a catastrophe,” he said. “There is no security, it is so bad everywhere, so we had to leave.”  

Many of the migrants’ belongings lie scattered on the rocks. Among them, medicines, a copy of the Quran, even a ripped-up passport belonging to a citizen from Niger. Italian authorities say the migrants dispose of any identification because they want to claim asylum in Europe - and will claim they are from an area of conflict like the Ivory Coast.

Lampedusa lies just 200 kilometers from the coast of Tunisia. More than 30,000 migrants have landed here, so far, this year. Their boats are now moored in the harbor - many of them sinking and clogging the port.

At first, most migrants were Tunisians.

In the last month, the majority have been expatriate workers in Libya fleeing the violence there - most of them sub-Saharan Africans, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis.

Eight Libyan boats arrived in one day alone last week.  The rising numbers have prompted the European Union’s border agency, Frontex, to fund more rescue boats and spotter planes.

Antonio Morana, the commander of the Lampedusa coast guard, says he has overseen more than 300 rescue operations since February.

Morana says these operations are dangerous and very complicated. He says the boats are normally between 20 and 25 meters long and usually should have about 50 people on board. But now, he says, they have up to 800. From the point of view of buoyancy and stability, he says, the navigation is extremely dangerous especially if the weather conditions are not good.

Two days after the migrant boat crashed in to the rocks, dive teams found three bodies trapped beneath the vessel.

In the darkness no-one had seen them drown.

Despite the dangers of the journey, Italian authorities are preparing for many more migrants to arrive in Lampedusa in the coming months.

You May Like

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go 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.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More