Newest Migrant Tragedy in Italian Waters

Nato Accused of Ignoring another migrant vessel
Nato Accused of Ignoring another migrant vessel

Dozens of migrants have died of hunger or thirst on a vessel that coastguard patrol boats assisted ninety miles off Lampedusa in Libyan waters.

About 300 passengers were on board of the migrant vessel. Officers also found the body of a man, which was transferred to one of the patrol boats to be taken to Lampedusa.

It was about 55 miles off Lampedusa when it was found with 370 people on board. Italian news organizations said the migrants reported that at least 30 other passengers, most of them women, had died during the crossing and had been thrown overboard.

Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman in Italy for the International Organization for Migration, informed the migrants had told him the same story, although some stated the number of people who died was much higher.

No bodies had been found, the Italian Coast Guard added.

Nato Accused of Ignoring another migrant vessel

NATO informed in a statement that its maritime command was informed by the Italian authorities of a “distress call of a ship” on Thursday and that the authorities subsequently said they had sent rescuers.

The statement says that “facts of the incident are still emerging.” NATO, it said, has a “longstanding commitment to render assistance in emergency situations at sea.”

The migration organization responded to the reports by saying that any boat leaving Libya should be considered a vessel in need of assistance.

“In the light of the number of migrants currently fleeing from Libya, we need to reinforce the search and rescue procedures at sea,” spokesman Di Giacomo said. “We need to cooperate all together.”

The story emerged when the first survivors – three seriously ill women and a man who were rushed to Lampedusa by helicopter – reached the island. Their account, which has yet to be verified by police, tells of bodies being thrown into the sea. Helicopter rescuers tell of suffering and hunger. Migrant boat in difficulty assisted in Libyan waters

In the early hours of the morning, the coastguard helicopter Nemo based at Catania airport lowered a basket containing water and other necessities onto the migrant vessel. Attempts by desperate passengers to climb into the basket and reach the helicopter forced officers to abandon the device. At 2.20 pm, four patrol boats approached the vessel and life rafts. The exhausted occupants were transhipped to safety prior to their immediate transfer to Lampedusa harbour. Three of the passengers, including a pregnant woman, picked up by the helicopter were in a seriously dehydrated condition.

“Our patrol boats sighted various items of clothing floating in the zone of operations. There may have been bodies as well but we were forced to return to port as soon as possible to transfer the 300 passengers, who are in very poor condition”. The speaker is Antonio Morana, the commander of the Lampedusa harbour forces, who confirms that so far only one body has been recovered from the drifting migrant vessel. He explained that it was impossible to initiate a search for other victims, partly because darkness was falling in the zone of operations.

Migrant Tragedy in Libyan Waters : Men had to throw their wives overboard

“There were 300 of us but about a hundred, most of them women, didn’t make it and the men had to throw their bodies overboard”. The dramatic story comes from one of the four Moroccans who were rescued and admitted to the Poliambulatorio medical facility on Lampedusa. According to the women, the boat’s engines broke down almost as soon as they cast off and for days on end, the vessel was adrift in Libyan waters. It is not yet known whether this is the vessel referred to by the 271 refugees who landed on Lampedusa with 25 bodies on board. The survivors told operatives of the UN High Commission for Refugees that they left on Saturday at the same time as various other vessels, with which they lost touch. This means it is not the same vessel assisted today ninety miles off Lampedusa. However, the accounts of the three women are still fragmentary. It was the women themselves who told health workers about the dozens of deaths on board and about the bodies of those who succumbed to hunger or exhaustion being dumped overboard.

The tragedy also is a mystery in itself. The Italian foreign ministry has contacted NATO in Brussels over reports that a NATO naval vessel failed to assist the migrant boat, state diplomatic sources. When the rumour started to circulate, the italian interior minister, Roberto Maroni, is reported to have contacted the italian foreign minister, Franco Frattini, and defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, and asked them discuss the plan of action with NATO.


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