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

    Video Pop Icon Prince Quietly Helped Afghan Orphans for Years

    He sent thousands of dollars to help an aid group rebuild a training center for orphan boy and girl scouts in Kabul, but kept his involvement secret

    Mali, a Way Station for Syrians Headed to Europe

    Another door may be closing for Syrians fleeing the conflict in their country, this time in Africa

    Britain’s Muslims See London Mayor Race as Victory

    Mere running of 45-year-old former government minister and son of Pakistani immigrants Sadiq Khan seen by many as turning point

    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.
    Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labori
    X
    May 05, 2016 6:44 PM
    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Donations Rescue Afghan Parents, Children From Forced Labor

    A Facebook campaign organized by a VOA radio host raised 150,000 Afghan rupees to rescue a family from forced labor at a brick kiln in Nangarhar province – the result of the father’s unpaid debt. Video by a VOA reporter in Jalalabad went viral this week and triggered the Facebook campaign.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Troops Recount Firefight Which Killed US Navy SEAL

    A U.S. Navy SEAL killed Tuesday, when Islamic State fighters punched through Kurdish lines in northern Iraq, was part of a quick reaction force sent to extract other U.S. troops trapped by the surprise offensive. VOA's Kawa Omar spoke with Kurdish troops in the town of Telskuf -- the scene of what U.S. officials called a "dynamic firefight."
    Video

    Video British Lawmakers Warn EU Exit Talks Could Last A Decade

    Leaving the European Union would mean difficult negotiations that could take years to complete, according to a bipartisan group of British lawmakers. While the group did not recommend a vote either way, the lawmakers noted trade deals between the EU and non-EU states take between four and nine years on average. Henry Ridgwell reports on the mounting debate over whether Britain should stay or exit the EU as the June vote approaches.
    Video

    Video NASA Astronauts Train for Commercial Space Flights

    Since the last Shuttle flight in 2011, the United States has been relying on Russian rockets to launch fresh crews to the International Space Station. But that may change in the next few years. NASA and several private space companies are developing advanced capsules capable of taking humans into low orbit and beyond. As VOA's George Putic reports, astronauts are already training for commercial spacecraft in flight simulators.
    Video

    Video US Worried Political Chaos in Iraq Will Hurt IS Fight

    The White House is expressing concern about rising political chaos in Iraq and the impact it could have on the fight against the Islamic State. The U.S. says Iraq needs a stable, central government to help push back the group. But some say Baghdad may not have a unified government any time soon. VOA's White House correspondent Mary Alice Salinas reports.
    Video

    Video Press Freedom in Myanmar Fragile, Limited

    As Myanmar begins a new era with a democratically elected government, many issues of the past confront the new leadership. Among them is press freedom in a country where journalists have been routinely harassed or jailed.
    Video

    Video Taliban Threats Force Messi Fan to Leave Afghanistan

    A young Afghan boy, who recently received autographed shirts and a football from his soccer hero Lionel Messi, has fled his country due to safety concerns. He and his family are now taking refuge in neighboring Pakistan. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from Islamabad.
    Video

    Video Major Rubbish Burning Experiment Captures Destructive Greenhouse Gases

    The world’s first test to capture environmentally harmful carbon dioxide gases from the fumes of burning rubbish took place recently in Oslo, Norway. The successful experiment at the city's main incinerator plant, showcased a method for capturing most of the carbon dioxide. VOA’s Deborah Block has more.
    Video

    Video EU Visa Block Threatens To Derail EU-Turkey Migrant Deal

    Turkish citizens could soon benefit from visa-free travel to Europe as part of the recent deal between the EU and Ankara to stem the flow of refugees. In return, Turkey has pledged to keep the migrants on Turkish soil and crack down on those who are smuggling them. Brussels is set to publish its latest progress report Wednesday — but as Henry Ridgwell reports from London, many EU lawmakers are threatening to veto the deal over human rights concerns.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora