When a desperate attempt at migration ends in tragedy

In 2011, a boat with 72 migrants drifted in the waters between Libya and Sicily for many days. No boat in the vicinity intervened. Only 9 of the migrants survived, and no onlooker was ever found guilty of criminal neglect.

Cinzia Sciuto
Cinzia Sciuto MicroMega, Italy
Source: MicroMega
When a desperate attempt at migration ends in tragedy - NewsMavens
Refugees. Pixabay

Why this story matters:

It is without doubt the most serious European drama of the 21st century. Hundreds of millions of people walking tens of thousands of miles across the desert and then crammed in inflatable boats to drift into the Mediterranean. During these trips that last for months, sometimes years, migrants are subjected to torture and violence of all kinds. Yet such is their despair that they still undertake the trip in hope of a safer life.

Since Italy has closed the Mare Nostrum mission, the situation in the waters between Sicily and Africa is extremely confusing. 

Very few ships are ready to take action to assist migrants.

 In recent months, there have been many controversies surrounding the work of migrant NGOs, accused by some politicians of being "sea taxis".

Europe shrugs, leaving the most exposed countries -- Italy, Spain, Greece -- the enormous responsibility of providing first aid at sea, where help for migrants on those boats represents the difference between life and death. And in these circumstances, as Giacomo Russa Spena writes in his article, tragedies are unavoidable.

Details from the story:

  • In the night between Saturday 26 and Sunday, March 27, 2011, a 7-foot inflatable boat set off from the coasts of Tripoli to Lampedusa.
  • There were 72 people on board, including 50 men, 20 women and 2 children, all from sub-Saharan countries (Ethiopia, Nigeria, Eritrea, Ghana and Sudan). The smugglers had provided them with only very little food and water.
  • On the evening of March 27, the inflatable boat starts to take water, and migrants, thanks to a satellite phone, manage to send an SOS signal, but the Coast Guard, the Navy  and other ships in the area all ignored the call.
  • Time passes, food supplies run out. Many people die. After having drifted for several days, the boat is dragged back to Lybia by the current. Out of the 72 migrants, only 9 survived.
  • The Rome Military Attorney has opened an investigation, but no one was found guilty.
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