The last few days’ arrivals at Lampedusa have brought about 700 new illegal migrants to Italy and raised the year’s total above the 50,000 mark, requiring an update of the Cultural Enrichment Thermometer at the top of this post.
Two boatloads of enrichment have landed since our last report. The first news story describes the rescue of a stalled boat in which some of the 300 refugees on board may have died en route:
Hundreds Rescued Aboard Stalled Boat, Dozens May Have Died
(AKI) — The Italian coast guard said it has rescued around 300 migrants aboard a boat stranded at sea after its motor stalled five days after setting sail from Northern Africa.
Authorities are trying to confirm reports of that that dozens of people died during the journey that began last Friday.
Five people were evacuated by helicopter to the Italian island of Lampedusa for treatment after the coast guard reached the vessel late Thursday.
“Dozens and dozens” of people died, according to some migrants. The coast guard said it found a single corpse aboard.
“On the boat we found only a single body,” a coast guard officer told Adnkronos. “We didn’t see any bodies floating in the sea.”
It was not immediately clear if the boat set sail from Libya, from where dozens of boats have embarked since civil war broke out there in February.
The second boat contained more than 400 enrichers:
437 Migrants Land in Lampedusa
(AGI) Rome — More migrants arrive in Lampedusa as 437 persons were rescued by the Financial police, the Port Authorities and the Navy from a boat about 30 miles south of the island early this morning. A woman on board had a cut wound. The migrants were disembarked a short while ago.
Neither boat’s country of origin is identified in these articles.
My previous report discussed the death of some twenty-five refugees in one of the boats rescued off Lampedusa. Italian authorities later determined that at least that some of corpses showed signs of foul play. Now six traffickers have been charged with homicide:
Boaters Arrested for the Homicide of Lampedusa Victims
(AGI) Palermo — 6 traffickers of the boat rescued last Sunday in Lampedusa with 25 dead bodies in the hull have been arrested.
The warrant of arrest was issued by the Prosecutor’s Office of Agrigento. They are all charged with abetting illegal immigration and for being responsible for a death occurring consequently to another offence, with two of them being charged with homicide. These are those that allegedly beat up two of the migrants whose bodies revealed signs of a brutal beating during the post-mortem examination. One of the two men arrested is Moroccan and the others are Syrian and Somalian.
Several months ago NATO, particularly the French, were said to have failed to help a disabled boat of North African migrants, resulting in the deaths of most of the passengers through thirst and starvation. Now the role of NATO in the refugee crisis is being discussed again, with the Italians insisting that NATO must help rescue the boat people from Libya:
Libya: Italy to Call on NATO to Come to Rescue of Boat People
Rome, 5 Aug. (AKI) — Italy will ask Nato to expand its mission in Libya to include aiding people fleeing the country because of the civil war, the Italian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.
The Italian coast guard late Thursday came to the aid of a stalled boat transporting around 300 migrants 90 miles from the tiny Italian island of Lampedusa. According to reports, Nato ignored Italy’s request that the military alliance rescue the vessel.
Some migrants claims that “dozens and dozens” of people died aboard the boat. The coast guard says it found one body aboard none in the water.
Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has asked his country ambassador to Nato to discuss the possibility expansion of the mandate to safeguard the Libyan people...to be also considered the rescue of those who for bellicose reasons are forced to flee in boats putting their personal safety at risk,” the statement said.
“We’re tired of seeing the suffering of thousands of people who continue to arrive here,” said Lampedusa mayor Bernardino De Rubeis on Friday. “But we’re also tired of seeing the deaths of hundreds of refugees.”
The Italian coast guard on 31 July found the bodies of 25 sub-Saharan African men in the hold of a boat the left Libya with hundreds of migrants aboard. The men may have died of asphyxiation from gas coming from the boat’s motor but police say two bodies show signs of dying succumbing to wounds suffered from a beating.
Nato was the object of widespread criticism in May when the organisation’s ships reportedly ignored SOS messages from a boat adrift in the Mediterranean with scores of African migrants on board, 61 of whom died of hunger and thirst, including babies.
Italy is now demanding a NATO enquiry into why the most recently rescued boat had not been helped by NATO ships, despite the distress calls sent out by drifting vessel:
Italy Wants NATO Probe Into Refugee Rescue ‘Refusal’
NATO denied calls for help, says Italy
(ANSA) — Rome, August 5 - Following the deaths of dozens of refugees aboard a stranded ship in Libyan waters, Italy formally asked NATO Friday to investigate why it did not intervene despite calls for help.
According to witnesses among the 374 who were rescued Thursday by the Italian coast guard, the ship had been floating aimlessly for six days after the engine broke down, leaving hundreds of passengers without food and water in crowded quarters. Italian authorities said they asked a NATO ship less than 30 miles from the stranded vessel to intervene sooner, but NATO allegedly refused, prompting Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini to request an internal investigation. “NATO always responds and intervenes in emergency situations, in compliance with international law,” said NATO spokesman David Taylor. “NATO ship commanders are well aware of these laws and act in accordance with the norms of SOLAS (Safety Of Life At Sea), which regulate the procedures to follow for rescues at sea”. Among those rescued, 50 were immediately treated for hypothermia and dehydration and five others were hospitalized for more serious conditions.
It is the second time this week that the Italian coast guard has rescued boats fleeing Libya and found dead bodies on board. On Monday, officials found 25 corpses aboard a ship packed with 271 African refugees from Libya rescued off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.
Similar accusations of NATO inaction surfaced in late March when witnesses said that two NATO jets passed over a vessel stranded off the coast of Libya.
Of the 72 refugees on board, 61 eventually died after over two weeks at sea.
Finally, an interesting piece about the disposition of scuttled migrant boats recovered from the harbor at Lampedusa. Strangely enough, some of the wrecks will be used when a “Museum of Memory” is set up on the island:
Lampedusa: Boats Recovered and Disposed of
(ANSAmed) — Lampedusa (Agrigento), August 4 — This morning operations began for the recovery of about twenty boats which sunk or were partially sunk off in the Lampedusa port, all of which landed on the island over the last few months and had been carrying migrants. Beginning on August 15, as well, further reclamation of all the rickety boats which have gone down near the port will begin, followed by the disposal from the island of all the about a hundred boats heaped up at the stadium and within the former Loran base. Other wrecks, upon the request of the town council and the cultural association Ascavuza, could be used for the setting up of a “Museum of Memory”. The area identified for the exhibition space is near the “European Port” sculpture by Mimmo Paladino, dedicated to the migrants who have landed on the island.
Hat tips: C. Cantoni and Insubria.
For previous posts about the Mediterranean refugee crisis, see The Camp of the Saints Archive.