The Italian navy has rescued 183 migrants from a fishing boat in
the Mediterranean as at least 140 Syrians arrived in Malta after being
rescued from another sinking boat yesterday.
Saturday, October 12, 2013
Among the migrants, who come from Nigeria, Syria and Tunisia,
are 34 women and 49 children. Other rescue operations are also currently
Some 34 people, including three children, are understood to have
died on Friday as the overloaded vessel went down between Malta and the
Italian island of Lampedusa.
It was the second such tragedy in the region in a week.
Speaking to Sky News, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said:
"At least 34 people died last night, many more are expected to be found
dead in the next couple of hours.
"The difference to last week's tragedy is that, instead of
Somalia, they hail from Syria, which makes the case even more
complicated and shows the immense human tragedy the Mediterranean is
experiencing right now."
The Maltese navy dispatched rescue ships and helicopters and
diverted commercial vessels to the area to assist the Syrians, while
Italy sent two naval vessels and helicopters carrying inflatable life
Helicopters airlifted the injured to Lampedusa Hospital where a large medical team treated them as soon as they arrived.
Hospital director Pietro Bertolo told journalists: "They are wet and very scared, but they are doing well."
He added that among the migrants was a "little boy, around two years, who is very beautiful" with his "young" mother.
After the rescue, Mr Muscat warned: "We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a cemetery."
And he told Sky News that this week's tragedies were an
indication of what he described as the bigger problem north African
migration was playing in the region.
"The rules the EU have were drafted in the 80s and 90s when the
situation was completely different," he said. "We are using the tools of
the past to face a problem that is very new.
"Our forces and the Italian forces are guarding European borders
but we're left on our own and we feel totally abandoned by Europe and
we're hearing only empty talk from Brussels."
The EU's asylum policy has been criticised for being overly
restrictive and it is claimed that is forcing refugees to resort to
desperate measures to reach Europe.
Italy has appealed to EU states for help in coping with the
thousands of migrants arriving in the country every month, and wants
migration to be put on the agenda of summit talks in Brussels at the end
of the month.
European Union Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstroem
said she was following the rescue operations "with sadness and anxiety".
"These new horrible events are happening while we still have the
shocking images of the tragedy in Lampedusa in our minds," she said,
adding the latest disaster highlighted the need for expanded search and
rescue operations "to better detect and assist boats in distress".
The sinking came as Italian divers found another body from last
week's shipwreck off Lampedusa, raising the death toll in the tragedy
Only 155 survivors were rescued out of an estimated 500 people,
most of them Eritreans and Somalis, on the boat which departed from
Immigration charities estimate that between 17,000 and 20,000
migrants have died at sea trying to reach Europe over the past 20 years.