Friday, October 4, 2013

More Human Tragedy as Hundreds die Just Out of Reach – No Container Shipping Around This Time

Lampedusa - Island of Misery - Scandal of Fleeing Migrant Deaths Which Exceed 20,000 in Recent Past
Shipping News Feature

ITALY – MEDITERRANEAN – Unfortunately our article of two days ago pointing out the dangers which refugees encounter when fleeing from North Africa into Europe, and telling of the recent involvement of container shipping in the rescue of hundreds of people from small boats, became horribly prescient with the news that hundreds have drowned in an accident yesterday just a kilometre or so from the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

The 66 foot craft held as many as 450 people and there were only 151 known survivors at the time of writing. Three boats containing around 500 migrants arrived safely at the island yesterday, one of the most popular landing sports for the hordes of fleeing people, but someone on the sunken vessel was seen to light a length of fabric, apparently to attract attention. As the fire spread the bulk of passengers moved away from the billowing flames, the transfer of weight causing the ship to overturn. The accident follows the deaths of 13 migrants a few days previously off the Sicilian coastline.

The craft yesterday foundered in around 130 feet of water and divers report many bodies sighted still trapped in the hull this morning. Amongst the confirmed dead were several children and almost 100 women, some of whom were clearly pregnant. As we stated yesterday this is a human tragedy of epic proportions, last year alone over 500 people died in an attempt to leave, normally from Libya which simply cannot provide them with any worthwhile income coupled with a miserable existence. In the same period about 15,000 successfully made the crossing.

Most refugees, as in this case, come from Eritrea and Somalia but there is a growing Syrian contingent, many of whom pay around €1,000 each for passage to Italy from where they migrate further into Northern Europe. The staggering fact is that around 20,000 of these unfortunates are believed to have died attempting the crossing in the last 25 years.

The people of Lampedusa are used to hordes of migrants flooding their islands, in 2011 Mr Berlusconi promised to clear the island ‘in a week’ but nothing it seems can stop the endless flow of replacements who sometimes have to live in the hills awaiting passage in unsanitary conditions.

Photo: Thousands of refugees throng the quayside awaiting passage on a ferry to Bari or Sicily.