In yet another horror story of people fleeing Libya in order to stay alive, the Guardian is reporting that dozens of African migrants were left to die in the Mediterranean after a number of European and NATO military units apparently ignored their cries for help.
30,000 Migrants Have Left Libya
The recent political turmoil and military conflict in north Africa have fueled a sharp rise in the number of people attempting to reach Europe by sea, with up to 30,000 migrants believed to have made the journey across the Mediterranean over the past four months.
More Then 800 Presumed Dead
Large numbers have died en route; last month more than 800 migrants of different nationalities who left on boats from Libya never made it to European shores and are presumed dead.
From The Guardian:
A boat carrying 72 passengers, including several women, young children and political refugees, ran into trouble in late March after leaving Tripoli for the Italian island of Lampedusa. Despite alarms being raised with the Italian coastguard and the boat making contact with a military helicopter and a NATO warship, no rescue effort was attempted.
All but 11 of those on board died from thirst and hunger after their vessel was left to drift in open waters for 16 days. “Every morning we would wake up and find more bodies, which we would leave for 24 hours and then throw overboard,” said Abu Kurke, one of only nine survivors. “By the final days, we didn’t know ourselves … everyone was either praying, or dying.”
International maritime law compels all vessels, including military units, to answer distress calls from nearby boats and to offer help where possible. Refugee rights campaigners have demanded an investigation into the deaths, while the UNHCR, the UN’s refugee agency, has called for stricter co-operation among commercial and military vessels in the Mediterranean in an effort to save human lives.
The Guardian‘s investigation into the case of the boat of 72 migrants which set sail from Tripoli on 25 March established that it carried 47 Ethiopians, seven Nigerians, seven Eritreans, six Ghanaians and five Sudanese migrants. Twenty were women and two were small children, one of whom was just one year old.
Desperate Migrants Condemned To Death
The boat’s Ghanaian captain was aiming for the Italian island of Lampedusa, 180 miles north-west of the Libyan capital, but after 18 hours at sea the small vessel began running into trouble and losing fuel.
Using witness testimony from survivors and other individuals who were in contact with the passengers during its doomed voyage, the Guardian has pieced together what happened next. The account paints a harrowing picture of a group of desperate migrants condemned to death by a combination of bad luck, bureaucracy and the apparent indifference of European military forces who had the opportunity to attempt a rescue.
By March 27, the boat had lost its way, run out of fuel and was drifting with the currents. With no supplies, fuel or means of contacting the outside world, the passengers began succumbing to thirst and starvation.
NATO Says It Has To Records Of The Incident
A spokesman for NATO, which is coordinating military action in Libya, said it had not logged any distress signals from the boat and had no records of the incident.
For most of the migrants, the failure of the NATO ship to mount any rescue attempt proved fatal, and all but eleven of the passengers died over the next ten days. The boat washed up on a beach near the Libyan town of Zlitan near Misrata on April 10.
In spite of this unimaginable horror, these and other migrants are ready to take on the Mediterranean again, in the hopes of reaching Europe and gaining asylum.
This is yet another illustration of just how dreadful are President Gaddafi’s actions in Libya.
African Migrants, Desperate To Flee Libya
You can get a glimpse of the desperation of these would-be migrants by checking out this video:
Photo Credit: Abode of Chaos via Creative Commons