April 26, 2017
When he saw boats in the distance, Issa knew he was going to live. It was July 2014 and he had spent hours in the sea, clinging to a plastic petrol container while women, men and children drowned around him. The small rubber boat that was supposed to take them all to Italy had sunk just two hours after leaving the Libyan coast. Of the 137 people Issa says were on board, only 49 survived.
Issa, from Burkina Faso, was not rescued by any passing ship but was picked up by the Libyan coastguard. Rather than being taken to a safe port in Italy as he had hoped, he was returned to Libya where he was handed over to the police. He says he was locked up for months in appalling conditions and beaten regularly by policemen who demanded money in exchange for his release.
“My hands were tied behind my back,” he said. “I was laying on the floor facing down, and they were beating me on the back with a belt and electric cables.”
Only after Issa’s family scraped together 625 OOO CFA (about £900), was he finally released.
In September last year, he tried to reach Italy again but after three days at sea, the boat he was on landed back on Libyan shores. “We were arrested upon arrival and taken to a prison in Tripoli, and two weeks later we were transferred to the city of Sabha. We learnt that we had been sold to traffickers.” After a month in captivity, he and others managed to escape. “Our abductors shot some people. I don’t know whether any of them died,” he said.
April 21, 2017
A hundred refugees and migrants crammed into a small dinghy that started taking in water in the Mediterranean endured an agonising 30-hour wait before they were rescued, a maritime log passed to the Guardian has revealed.
The incident happened over the Easter weekend, the unofficial start of the “sailing season”, which sees increased numbers of people attempting the crossing from Africa to Europe as the weather improves.
Twenty children and 10 women, one of them pregnant, were among the passengers on the overcrowded dinghy.
April 19, 2017
On the 19th April 2015, an estimated 700 children, women and men drowned in the Mediterranean while desperately searching for a new life in safety and peace. The European community was outraged and politicians vowed: ‘never again’.
The following year, on the 18th of April, up to 500 people died in shipwrecks off the Libyan coast.
AsMOAS prepared to commemorate these mass tragedies, our crew were out in the Central Mediterranean on our search and rescue vessel, the Phoenix. Our 2017 mission had launched 2 weeks earlier; a date chosen precisely to avoid yet more April tragedies. As the Phoenix travelled to the zone of operations following a period of bad weather, they knew that many rescues lay ahead of them; but they could never have anticipated the scale of what they were about to face.
Here, we will set out how the weekend unfolded, and how it was that through the determination, teamwork and solidarity among everyone at sea, another mass tragedy was avoided.
On Good Friday, 14th April 2017, throughout the day over 2000 people were rescued by SAR agencies, mostly NGOs and coast guard vessels. The Phoenix participated in the rescue of 273 people, transferring everyone to an Italian coast guard vessel so that our crew could remain in the area to assist
April 18, 2017
From the Guardian:
Every time a ship with rescued migrants enters the harbour of Palermo, the mayor goes to greet them. “Welcome,” he says to them. “The worst is over. You are citizens of Palermo now.”
April 15, 2017
From La Repubblica Palermo online:
In nineteen operations at sea yesterday rescuers saved more than two thousand immigrants leaving Africa from Libya and headed to Italy.
With the sea calm, the human traffickers decided to send off to Europe 16 overcrowded rubber rafts and three small wooden boats for a total of 2,074 rescued migrants.
The volunteers of Doctors Without Borders and the staff of the NGO SOS Mediterranee are aboard the ship Aquarius said in a tweet that in one of the rescue operations they found a dead teenage boy on the bottom of one of the rafts. "The sea continues to serve as a graveyard," they wrote on Twitter.
April 14, 2017
From La Repubblica's Palermo edition online:
TRIPOLI-- According to the Libyan Coast Guard, a rubber raft full of migrants sank six miles off the coast of Tripoli. The coast guard saved 23 people of several African nationalities, but at least 97 people were lost, among them 15 women and five children.
THose unaccounted for are "probably dead," according to the coast guard spokesman, even though no other bodies have been found, also because of terrible weather conditions.
There were originally 120 people aboard the motorized rubber raft. This makes 590 migrants departing from Libya now drowned in the Mediterranean since January first, 2017.
April 12, 2017
From The Guardian:
Pope Francis has opened a free launderette in Rome in the latest of a series of initiatives aimed at poor people that has included help with housing, showers, haircuts, meals and medical care.
Six washing machines and dryers were donated to the facility in the city centre. Detergent, fabric softener and a number of irons have also been provided.
The Lavanderia di Papa Francesco (Pope Francis Laundry) intended to “restore dignity to many people who are our brothers and sisters”, the Vatican said. It is designed to serve “the poorest people, particularly the homeless, who will be able to wash, dry and iron their clothes and blankets”.
April 5, 2017
From The Guardian...
Dozens of people are feared to have drowned after a rubber boat carrying migrants and refugees from Libya sank in the Mediterranean.
The sole survivor – a 16-year-old Gambian boy – told rescuers that 146 other people were on board when the boat sank.
A Spanish frigate, the Canarias, found the boy hanging on to a piece of debris in the sea on Tuesday. He was transferred to an Italian Coast Guard ship and brought to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa early on Wednesday.
March 21, 2017
NGO rescue ship Aquarius reports immigrants to arrive Catania today.
March 14, 2017
From The Guardian, 11 March 2017:
Every night for almost three years, Nicoleta Bolos lay awake at night on a dirty mattress in an outhouse in Sicily’s Ragusa province, waiting for the sound of footsteps outside the door. As the hours passed, she braced herself for the door to creak open, for the metallic clunk of a gun being placed on the table by her head and the weight of her employer thudding down on the dirty grey mattress beside her.
The only thing that she feared more than the sound of the farmer’s step outside her door was the threat of losing her job. So she endured night after night of rape and beatings while her husband drank himself into a stupor outside.
“The first time, it was my husband who said I had to do this. That the owner of the greenhouse where we had been given work wanted to sleep with me and if we refused he wouldn’t pay us and would send us off his land,” she says.