Twenty-two lifeless bodies were recovered by the Doctors Without Borders’ ship caòòed Aquarius, one of the three vessels engaged in the search, rescue,and assistance in the Mediterranean Sea, off the Libyan coast – along with Dignity I and Bourbon Argos -, after having rescued 209 migrants. Twenty-one of them were women.
“They died in a terrible way, smashed in the crowd of people who were trying to secure themselves a place to escape from Libya,” said one of the rescuing doctors. Tomorrow, Aquarius will reach the port of Trapani in grief. In the meantime, Bourbon Argos arrived to Pozzallo with 628 people aboard. The latter were rescued yesterday in the Sicilian Channel, where they were struggling with a difficult situation on rubber dinghies. At least 300 migrants will be transferred to reception centers after identification, to try to detect the alleged smugglers.
The Ragusa squad executed an order for remand in prison against a 16-year-old Senegalese smuggler, issued by Catania’s judge for the preliminary investigations upon the request of the Prosecutor for Minors. The young man had been arrested in January. After a some time spent in the reception center for minors in Catania, he was entrusted to a community for minors, then transferred due to misconduct. But it did not change the situation. Catania’s Prosecutor for Minors then requested and obtained the aggravation of the precautionary measures and sent him back to juvenile prison.
Since 2002, Doctors Without Borders has been running “Mission Italy”, in the Channel of Sicily, near the coast of Lampedusa, offering medical and psychological assistance. Since 2015, aboard the three DWB ships destined to rescue and medical care operations in the central Mediterranean Area, in the section between Italy and Libya, on the main route of hope, where last year alone 2,892 migrants lost their lives. Most of them were children and women, doctors have saved the lives of too many people who were at risk of dying from dehydration or hypothermia, burns or infections the crossing has caused them. In 2015, over 23 thousand people were rescued in direct operations or following transfers to other ships.
Aquarius has a crew of 11 people, in addition to doctors and rescue workers. It is 77 meters long and has a maximum capacity of 500 people.
In 2015, over one million people arrived to Europe; 153 thousand of them have landed in Italy after having faced danger while crossing our sea, and mainly in Sicilian ports. In 2016, the number of arrivals has considerably increased. In Italy, their number is estimated at 50 thousand.
The largest number of migrants landing on Italian shores, mainly in Sicily and in Puglia, are infants, children, and adolescents. They travel on overcrowded boats and in bad security situation. Many, too many of them lose their lives at sea. They depart mainly from Libya and Egypt, which has become the new route after the Balkan corridor had been closed. Fleeing from countries at war or ravaged by poverty: Nigeria, Somalia, Syria, Eritrea, Morocco, and Pakistan. The Sicilian ports of call are, along with Lampedusa, Messina, Augusta, Taranto, and Pozzallo.
Reception centers host more than 130 thousand people, over 20 thousand of whom are unaccompanied minors. 5 thousand children have gone missing and we cannot rule out the hypothesis that they may have fallen victims to human trafficking. This is the truth about migration. They are not numbers, but human lives, and we are all responsible for them, due to our indifference, or what is even worse, due to our racism.