"Today is a day of tears," Pope Francis said after the disaster off the Italian island of Lampedusa, on Thursday 3 October, in which a boat carrying some 500 people, mostly from Sub-Saharian Africa, sank: 111 bodies (four children, 49 women and 58 men) have been found, 155 people have been pulled out alive, but more than 200 are dispersed in sea.
The boat approached the isle of Lampedusa, south of Sicily, after a 13 days crossing from Lybian coasts. As the engine stopped when they neared the isle, the migrants set fire to blankets and clothes to attract the attention of passing ships, but the fire spread to the rest of the boat, which capsized when people attempting to escape the flames moved all to the opposite side.
Here's the recount of one of the rescuers, a fisherman, as reported by a AFP news: "Suddenly, it was hell...The worst was having to choose who to save, knowing that the others would drown" , he said also he and his seven shipmates began hauling survivors -- naked and slick with the fuel oil spilling from their sinking boat -- onto their boat at 6:30 am (0430 GMT) and called the coast guard at 6:45 am. Looking haunted, the tourist said it then took the coast guard around 45 minutes to arrive even though the wreck was within sight of the shore.That accusation echoes similar ones from others who helped save drowning migrants and say the rescue effort was hindered by delays and a law against illegal immigration.
Let's listen to what Lampedusa mayor Giusi Nicolini told reporters earlier: "The fishing boats left because our country has taken to court fishermen and ship owners who saved lives and were accused of favouring illegal immigration ... the government has to change these inhuman norms." And the AFP note continues: One jarring aspect of the law is that the 155 survivors -- like all irregular migrants in Italy until asylum is granted -- are formally considered suspects for the crime of "clandestinity".
"So many bodies have been brought ashore that the island has had to send for more coffins and turn a hangar at the airport into a huge makeshift mortuary.
Residents of Lampedusa held a candlelit procession through the streets of the island. One banner read: "Once again you didn't hear me crying."(BBC - see image below).
The survivors - as a note of CNN reports - have been taken to a reception center that's already overcrowded with about 1,000 other recent arrivals by boat ...Lampedusa, south of Sicily and the closest Italian island to Africa, has become a destination for tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter European Union countries. And such wrecks of migrant boats, although on a smaller scale, have become all too common.
Pope Francis - the CNN note continues - labeling the tragedy a "disgrace," called for concerted action to ensure it is not repeated in future. He visited Lampedusa in July to pray for refugees and migrants lost at sea and criticized than what he called global indifference to the island's refugee crisis.
Italian President Giorgio Napolitano has called for "specific policies" on refugees and asylum seekers "which are not regulated by Italian laws".(BBC)
'Fundamentally wrong' (A comment by CNN): Despite the dangers of taking to the sea in boats that are often barely seaworthy, thousands of migrants and asylum seekers depart North Africa's shores every year in search of a better life. Another 13 men drowned off Italy's southern coast Monday when they attempted to swim ashore, the U.N. refugee agency said Thursday. And last week, the Italian coast guard rescued a ship bound for Lampedusa from Tunisia that had 398 Syrian refugees on board.U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said the tragedy "should serve as a wake-up call" to the world. "There is something fundamentally wrong in a world where people in need of protection have to resort to these perilous journeys," he said. He called for more effective international cooperation to crack down on people smugglers, saying the latest tragedy shows how vital it is for refugees "to have legal channels to access territories where they can find protection."
Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, said it was time for Europe to enact new policies rather than simply shed tears for those who died -- or blame the traffickers.
"To solve the problem, it is vital to understand what it is that routinely brings thousands of migrants to trust smugglers, face exorbitant costs and risk their lives on unseaworthy vessels," he said. "It's quite simple. It is legally impossible for them to travel safely on planes and ferries."This can be because their oppressive home countries won't grant them exit visas or because they're poor and can't offer the financial guarantees needed for a European visa to be granted, he said.
We would lastly report a comment by the site Gariwo:
Migrant routes (picture by Giornalettismo)
The European welfare, which Italy was entitled to enjoy according to "bloc" belonging and productive savviness of it inhabitants, but which generations of politicians were unable to harness or at least to keep, is luring to millions people who are suffering from hunger, torture and persecution worldwide.
In the hands of pitiless traffickers, who lash them, thrown them into the sea from boats which are becoming bigger as the revenues of the Mafia increase, Syrian, Eritrean, Lybian, Somali, Iraqi citizens and people from other lands ravaged by humanitarian crises often end up with shipwrecking with all their dreams and hopes. It happened in 1996, as refugees were rescued by the brave Sicilians from Porto Palo, in 2003, then again in three most worrying cases in 2011 as British broadcasting service BBC reminded us, and this recent bloody 3 October.
In Sicily only between 1 January and 30 September 14,468 destitutes have arrived. Over the same period in Lampedusa other 11,000 arrived. Adding the numbers of those who gave reached the coasts of Calabria and Puglia they amount too 30,000, nearly all with the right of asylum by the laws and international conventions because they are persecuted. They are all exploited by the international criminal organizations, which have strengthened and now dispose of bigger ships. This all happens in the silence of Europe, the inadequacy of Italy where often are called as "heroes" those who do their duty, such as the Concordia conditions, and those who welcome aboard on their ship some people who run the risk of drowning are treated to criminals.