Sunday, 28 July 2013

31 migrants drown en route to Lampedusa

Thirty-one people are believed to have died while trying to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, the latest tragedy to occur on the perilous sea crossing between north Africa and Europe.

Survivors of the journey from Libya reportedly told authorities that the vessel in which they were travelling capsized on Friday evening, and more than half of its 53 passengers drowned. They said nine of the dead were women, the Ansa news agency reported.

The Italian coastguard has rescued 22 migrants from the boat which sank off the coast of Libya, ANSA news agency said on Sunday.

Pictures on Italian television showed the wreck of a motorised rubber dinghy. The 22 people rescued were from a variety of west African countries including Nigeria, Benin, Gambia and Senegal.

Rescuers were still searching for any survivors

When Pope Francis visited Lampedusa this month, the UN said the death toll for the crossing this year was 40.

The survivors of Friday night were a fraction of the more than 470 migrants who arrived on Italian shores in the space of 24 hours. The reception centre in Lampedusa is reported to be full to bursting following a surge in the number of arrivals.

A week ago Save the Children raised the alarm about the plight of unaccompanied minors in the centre, where they said dozens of child migrants were sleeping on the bare earth outside due the recent influx.

The traffickers who charge money for the crossings tend to take advantage of calm seas, as in recent days, to make the voyage.

It was a tragedy along the lines of Friday night's drowning that Francis said had spurred him on to devote his first trip outside Rome to Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost point. During the visit on 8 July, he said news of a recent incident had repeatedly come back to him "like a thorn in the heart".

The Argentinian pontiff, whose grandparents emigrated from northern Italy to Latin America, asked for "forgiveness for those who by their decisions at the global level have created situations that lead to these tragedies", and cast a wreath of flowers on to the water in commemoration of those who had died.

North Africa is a launch-point for migration to southern Europe, with Italy the main destination. Thousands of people have been killed attempting the dangerous crossing in overcrowded and frequently unsafe boats.

Sunday 28 July 2013


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