Another Boat Carrying 200 People Capsizes Between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa

Another Boat Carrying 200 People Capsizes Between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa
"A ship apparently trying to reach Europe capsized in the Mediterranean on Friday, between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa"
 
By JIM YARDLEY | NY Times
ROME — A ship filled with migrants apparently trying to reach Europe capsized in the Mediterranean on Friday, between Malta and the Italian island of Lampedusa, with initial reports suggesting that at least 200 people were flailing in the sea as rescue efforts were under way.
Marco Di Milla, a spokesman for Italy’s Coast Guard, said a Maltese aircraft spotted a capsized boat around 6 p.m. on Friday and notified the Coast Guard. Two Coast Guard vessels were dispatched from Lampedusa, about 65 miles west of the site of the accident, along with two ships and a helicopter from the Italian Navy. A fishing boat in the area was also diverted to help.
“We know that there are about 200 people at sea,” Officer Di Milla said in a telephone interview. “We have no official information on bodies. The operations are still ongoing.”
Later on Friday night, the Italian news media reported that 50 to 200 people had been rescued, with 50 others still missing at sea. But the Coast Guard said that it could not yet confirm such reports, and that it did not know where the ship had sailed from.
The accident comes as Europe is still grappling with the aftermath of a horrific maritime disaster on Oct. 3, in which a migrant boat carrying Africans capsized less than half a mile from Lampedusa, killing at least 339 people. Someone on board had set fire to a blanket, hoping to attract attention from the shore. The flames ignited gasoline from the engine, which had failed. When people rushed away from the blaze, the boat toppled. Many could not swim.
The Lampedusa accident has brought renewed criticism of Europe’s disjointed immigration policies. Tens of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers from Africa and the Middle East pay thousands of dollars to smugglers every year to try to reach Europe by boat across the Mediterranean, despite treacherous conditions and an uncertain reception in Europe. Critics say Europe must do more to create legal channels to allow people from poorer countries to immigrate.
Earlier this week, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, visited Lampedusa, pledging an additional 30 million euros, or $40.5 million, to help Italy deal with the influx of refugees. Mr. Barroso saw rows of coffins for the victims, including children, laid out in an airplane hangar, and he spoke broadly about coordination and cooperation among European Union member states.
Immigration is a volatile issue in much of Europe, with right-wing political parties in several countries embracing nativist, anti-immigrant positions. For years, Italian officials have complained of having to bear Europe’s burden, since tens of thousands of asylum seekers land in Italy, even though they often aspire to asylum in Northern European countries with better benefits. Others note that countries like Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden bear the brunt of asylum applications.
Usually, the traffic of migrants across the Mediterranean slows down by October, when the conditions of the sea and the weather make passage more dangerous. But this October, Italy’s Coast Guard has conducted rescue operations almost every day, as the tide of people keeps coming.
Lampedusa, roughly 70 miles east of Tunisia, is an epicenter of the migration crisis on the Mediterranean, with migrant ships regularly aiming for the island. Giusi Nicolini, the Lampedusa mayor, has spoken frequently about the need for a European solution to prevent so many people from risking their lives at sea. The latest disaster did not surprise her.
“Shipwrecks are very frequent,” she told the Italian television channel La7. “We know about some, but often we don’t even know that they’ve happened.”
She added: “We can’t let people die at sea. There cannot be a dam in the Mediterranean. And Lampedusa is too tiny to be Europe’s frontier.”
The accident Friday occurred in the territorial waters of Malta, not far from Libyan waters, Officer Di Milla said. Often, migrants are loaded onto ships by smugglers in Libya or Egypt, who guide them into international waters and then transfer them onto smaller, rickety ships, often leaving them with a satellite phone to call Italian officials for rescue.The Italian media reported that a similar rescue call had come in on Friday night, though the Coast Guard could not confirm that.Gaia Pianigiani contributed reporting.

Another migrant ship capsizes off Italy island, 50 dead but more than 200 saved

VALLETTA, Malta — For the second time in a week, a smugglers’ boat overloaded with migrants capsized in the Canal of Sicily on Friday as it made the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe. At least 50 people drowned, but 221 people were rescued in a joint Italian-Maltese operation, officials said.

Helicopters ferried the injured to Lampedusa, the Italian island that is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland and the destination of choice for most smugglers’ boats leaving Tunisia or Libya. It was off Lampedusa that a migrant ship from Libya capsized Oct. 3 with some 500 people aboard. Only 155 survived.

Friday’s capsizing occurred 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Lampedusa, but in waters where Malta has search and rescue responsibilities.

 

 

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