By Hadi Fornji.
Tripoli, 12 October 2013:
It has emerged that the boat carrying illegal immigrants that sank between Lampedusa and Malta yesterday . . .[restrict]with the loss of at least 30 lives set out from Libya.
It left from Zuara on Thurday at midnight, the Libya Herald has learned.
All on board were Syrians or Palestinians who had been living in Syria. Unlike most other cases of illegal migrants crossing to Europe, there were no sub-Saharan Africans on board.
So far 23 bodies have been recovered. Four of them were transferred to Malta – a woman, an 11-year-old boy and two infants, the other bodies to the Italian island of Lampedusa. All the 144 survivors were taken to Malta following yesterday’s Maltese–Italian rescue mission. But the death toll is expected to rise to around 50. There were thought to be at least 200 people on board.
According to a Syrian survivor who spoke to the Chief Journalist of the Times of Malta, Mark Micallef, he and the rest of the boat people made the perilous sea journey because they had no papers and no other way to get to Europe. Some, the man said, had travelled from the Egyptian border through to Zuara and had paid between $3,000-$4,000 for the journey. Others were charged $1,000 in Zuara for the crossing.
According to the Maltese authorities, people used their mobile phones to summon help when boat got into difficulties but it then capsized when they crowded to one side to try an alert a passing plane.
Last week, on 3 October, in one of the worst boat disasters in recent times in the Mediterranean, some 340 illegal Somali and Eritrean migrants perished when their boat capsized off Lampedusa. It too had set sail from Libya – from Misrata.
Another boatload of Syrian and Palestinian migrants sank yesterday off the north Egyptian coast. At least 12 people drowned although 116 were rescued by the Egyptian coast guard.
Reacting to yesterday’s sinking in Maltese waters, the country’s Prime Minister Joseph Muscat has said that the Mediterranean was becoming a cemetery and that European leaders should be ashamed at leaving the problem to Italy and Malta to deal with.
No sense of shame has been expressed so far in Libya at its involvement in the smuggling and the tragedies. It is estimated that hundreds of boat illegal migrants leave Libya’s shores for Europe every day, the vast majority of whom in fact make it to Italy or Malta without mishap. So far, next to nothing is being done to stop it.
That may be about to end. According to one of those on board the Zuara boat, it was shot at as it left the port. He believed the intention was to force it to turn back. [/restrict]