More than 110 migrants die in Mediterranean in three days. Bodies of 74 people wash up on beach in western Libya as baby boy dies on rescue boat.
Four shipwrecks in the space of three days have claimed the lives of more than 110 people in the Mediterranean, including at least 70 people whose bodies have washed up on the beach of al-Khums, in western Libya.
According to the UN migration agency (IOM), that boat was reported to be carrying more than 120 people, including women and children. Forty-seven survivors had been brought to shore by the coastguard and fishermen, while the bodies of at least 74 people were floating near the water’s edge on Thursday.
A few hours after the bodies were reported, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) helped three women who were the only survivors of another shipwreck, which killed 20 people off the coast of Sorman, in Libya.
“Rescued by local fishermen, they were in shock and terrified,” MSF wrote on Twitter. “They saw loved ones disappear beneath the waves, dying in front of their eyes.”
Taking advantage of good mid-autumn weather, people smugglers have sent hundreds of migrants to sea in the last week, according to charities. The majority of the journeys have ended in tragedy.
On Wednesday, six people died after the dinghy in which they were travelling with more than 100 migrants capsized off Libya’s coast. A six-month-old boy was among the victims.
The boy, who had survived the shipwreck, died onboard a rescue boat. Named Joseph and originally from Guinea, he was saved by rescuers from the Spanish non-governmental organisation Open Arms late on Wednesday morning after the dinghy reportedly began to deflate. At least five other asylum seekers died as a result of that incident.
“This is a massacre at Europe’s borders,” said a spokesperson for Alarm Phone, a hotline for migrant boats in distress. “What else can we say? We have called for radical changes for years and still the dying continues. It is devastating.’’
Open Arms wrote on Twitter: “Despite the enormous commitment of our medical team, a six-month-old baby has just died. We requested an urgent evacuation for him and other people in serious conditions, but he didn’t make it. How much pain and sorrow!”
The dinghy had allegedly left Sabratha, Libya, but began to deflate after a few hours. After a patrol aircraft from the European agency Frontex raised the alarm, the Open Arms ship promptly intervened.
Refugees and migrants being rescued by members of Open Arms.
Refugees and migrants being rescued by members of Open Arms. Photograph: Sergi Camara/AP
“When our rescuers arrived, they found themselves in front of a dramatic scene,” Riccardo Gatti, the president of Open Arms Italy, said. “The boat had practically imploded and hundreds of people found themselves in the water, in the open sea – some were children.”
Judging Joseph’s condition to be serious, the rescuers asked the Maltese and Italian authorities to evacuate him for medical treatment. However, when the Italian coastguard arrived, Joseph had already died.
“We did all we could to rescue those onboard,” said the medical team of the NGO Italian Emergency, operating onboard the Open Arms. “All this took place just a few kilometres away from an indifferent Europe. Instead of preparing a structured search and rescue system, they instead continue to bury their heads in the sand, pretending not to see the cemetery that the Mediterranean Sea has become.”
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On Tuesday, another child, whose age is unknown, was among 13 people who died in a separate shipwreck off Libya’s coast. Eleven survivors were taken back to Libya.
‘‘Change is necessary now, more than ever, to guarantee effective rescue at sea and prevent new tragedies,’’ said Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesperson for IOM.
In 2020 alone, “over 10,300 migrants have been intercepted at sea and sent back to dangerous Libya”, Di Giacomo said.
According to IOM figures, since the beginning of October, at least 30 migrants have died at sea while trying to reach Italy.
Since the beginning of 2020, about 575 people have died in the central Mediterranean, but the real number is estimated to be considerably higher, according to IOM.
Open Arms is currently the only NGO rescue boat operating in the central Mediterranean. Many other rescue boats are blocked in Italian ports because officials refuse to authorise their departure.
“Is the European Union watching?” MSF wrote on Twitter. “Step the search and rescue capacity up, or let us save lives.”
Video of Migrants sinking in the Mediterranean
Source: The Guardian .com