Hundreds of people, more than 700 according to witnesses, lost their lives in a shipwreck in the Strait of Sicily, in what threatens to be the worst immigrant tragedy ever. The migrants were on a fishing- boat from East of Tripoli. Crammed by the hundreds in a long boat measureing 20 to 30 metres. Around midnight the alarm, launched from the boat when it was about 130 miles from the Libyan coast: “we are at sea, help us,” said one man. Operators, thanks to the call-satellite system, were able to quickly locate coordinates from where the call came and relief efforts were organised with a Portuguese merchant ship ‘ King Jacob’. Unfortunately, quoting sources of the Maltese authorities, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (Unhcr) announced that only ‘ 50 people saved “. On the site, a massive relief operation is till under way, given the water temperature at 17 degrees there is still hope that someone might have survived. It was an Eritrean migrant survivor of the tragedy, who reported about 700 people who were on board the boat. According to procedures, other survivors will be heard regarding to the number that took sail on the boat. The boat that capsized-reported the coast guard-was “overloaded with migrants”.
Matteo Renzi after returning to Rome to follow the developments of the tragedy has called for a special summit with Ministers and cancelled all appointments in the afternoon. At a press conference whch took place at 6pm yesterday, he said: “thanks to the people who are here, because the work that Italy is doing, sometimes almost alone, is an amazing job” Reaffirming the need to call for a special European Council meeting. “What we ask-says the premier is not to be left alone, not so much for the emergency at sea, but rather because it is natural that in these situations, the sea is an ‘ugly beast.’ Ours is a political matter, for the dignity of man, and put a stop to this trafficking of human beings “.
Maltese premier Joseph Muscat Cnn has defined it as a “genocide” . “Gangs of criminals, he added, that put people on the boats, sometimes even under the threat of arms, sending them to their death, really. ” “Our military, together with the Italian Navy, are literally searching for corpses to find someone who has survived.”
“The European Commission is deeply saddened by the tragic developments in the Mediterranean today, but also those of the last days and weeks. The reality is hard and our actions must therefore be courageous. There are human lives at stake and the EU has the overall moral and humanitarian duty to act “. This is what we read in a note from the Commission, spread as a result of the shipwreck. The Commission has informed they are in consultation with Member States, European agencies and international organizations to “prepare a new European strategy on migration, which will be adopted by the Commission in mid-May.”
In full agreement with the EU commission is Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and security, who met Premier Renzi at Palazzo Chigi. “It is time for the EU to face these tragedies without delay,” said Mogherini. “We need a common shared responsibility among all the 28 that for too long has been left only to countries of the South.” “I have decided to place the issue of migration as a formal agenda item of Foreign Affairs that will meet tomorrow in Luxembourg, where I will present a list of proposals for Libya, one of the main countries involved in illegal trafficking of migrants”.
“I called Matteo Renzi in an effort to see if we could work out an urgent solution ,” said French President Francois Hollande on TV Canal Plus, referring to the shipwreck as being “the worst disaster in recent years in the Mediterranean,”. “We must act ” he stressed. “The European Union must reinforce the number of vessels in operation Triton, a name that is not suitable,” he said again. “We need to fight more intensely against trafficking” because “whoever puts people on these ships are not only traffickers, but terrorists too. They are aware that these boats are absolute wrecks and that people will surely die on the high seas. Yet, they put them to this risk.” The next steps to follow in Eu, Hollande announced that he wished to discussi t with” the President of the EU Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, and the President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk “.
Translation provided by Marina Stronati