Valdosta Daily Times

Breaking News:

National, International News

October 12, 2013

Another migrant ship capsizes off Italy; 27 dead

VALLETTA, Malta — For the second time in a week, a smugglers’ boat overloaded with migrants capsized in the Canal of Sicily on Friday as it made the perilous crossing from Africa to Europe. At least 27 people drowned, but 221 people were rescued in a joint Italian-Maltese operation, officials said.

Helicopters ferried the injured to Lampedusa, the Italian island that is closer to Africa than the Italian mainland and the destination of choice for most smugglers’ boats leaving Tunisia or Libya. It was off Lampedusa that a migrant ship from Libya capsized Oct. 3 with some 500 people aboard. Only 155 survived.

Friday’s capsizing occurred 65 miles (105 kilometers) southeast of Lampedusa, but in waters where Malta has search and rescue responsibilities.

The two shipwrecks were the latest grim reminder of the extreme risks that migrants and asylum-seekers often take in an effort to slip into Europe every year by boat.  Facing unrest and persecution in Africa and the Middle East, many of the migrants think the Lampedusa escape route to Europe, which is barely 70 miles (113 kilometers) from northern Africa, is worth the risk.

“They do know that they are risking their lives, but it is a rational decision,” said Maurizio Albahari, assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. “Because they know for a fact they will be facing death or persecution at home — whatever remains of their home, or assuming there is a home in the first place.”

What drives them is the hope that they’ll have a better life in Europe for themselves and their children, he said. “It’s either perish or go somewhere.”

In the latest case, the Italian coast guard said it received a satellite phone call from the boat that it was in distress and was able to locate it based on the satellite coordinates, said coast guard spokesman Marco Di Milla.

A Maltese aircraft was sent up and reported that the boat had capsized and that “numerous” people were in the water. The aircraft dropped a life raft, and a patrol boat soon arrived at the scene, according to a statement from the Maltese armed forces.

Late Friday, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat reported that 27 bodies had been recovered, three of them children.

He said 150 survivors were rescued aboard a Maltese ship. An Italian patrol boat had another 56 survivors, while a fishing boat had 15, said Cmdr. Marco Maccaroni of the Italian navy. Between the Italian and Maltese ships, the total of survivors came to 221, though it wasn’t clear if the injured who were flown by helicopter to Lampedusa were included in that figure.

The incident occurred as recovery operations continued Friday off Lampedusa for victims of the Oct. 3 shipwreck. The death toll stood Friday at 339, including a newborn recovered with its umbilical cord still attached, Di Milla said.

The recent deaths prompted renewed calls for the European Union to do more to better patrol the southern Mediterranean and prevent such tragedies — and for countries like Libya to crack down on smuggling operations.

“We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a cemetery,” Muscat told a news conference in Valletta, the Maltese capital.

Lampedusa is the destination of choice for smugglers who usually charge more than 1,000 euro ($1,355) a head and cram the migrants onto boats that routinely run into trouble and require rescue. Fortress Europe, an Italian observatory that tracks migrant deaths reported by the media, says about 6,450 people died in the Canal of Sicily between 1994 and 2012.

Once in Italy, the migrants are screened for asylum and often sent back home if they don’t qualify. During the 1990s and early 2000s, many of the arrivals were considered “economic migrants.” But many of the latest arrivals are fleeing persecution and conflict in places such as Syria and Eritrea, and qualify for refugee status, U.N. officials say.

Many eventually end up in northern Europe’s larger and more organized immigrant communities.

During a visit to Lampedusa this week, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso promised Italy some 30 million euro ($41 million) in EU funds to better care for newly arrived migrants.

Italian officials pledged to put the issue on the agenda of an upcoming European Union summit and on the EU agenda next year, when Italy and Greece hold the EU presidencies.

Some 30,100 migrants arrived in Italy and Malta in the first nine months of 2013, compared with 15,000 in all of 2012, according to the U.N. refugee agency.

1
Text Only
National, International News
  • Tentative deal reached on VA reform

    The chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees have reached a tentative agreement on a plan to fix a veterans’ health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.

    July 27, 2014

  • United States-Libya_Rich.jpg US evacuates embassy in Libya amid clashes

    The United States shuttered its embassy in Libya on Saturday and evacuated its diplomats to neighboring Tunisia under U.S. military escort as fighting intensified between rival militias. Secretary of State John Kerry said “free-wheeling militia violence” prompted the move.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP9607270692 copy.jpg Today in History for Sunday, July 27, 2014

    Today is Sunday, July 27, the 208th day of 2014. There are 157 days left in the year.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • No ticket for Shrek over loud musical, chief says

    A musical being performed in a New Hampshire park has drawn some noise complaints, but the deputy police chief says he’s “not giving Shrek a ticket.”

    July 26, 2014

  • Arizona Execution Dru_Rich copy.jpg Arizona’s McCain: Execution was torture

    U.S. Sen. John McCain says the execution of an Arizona inmate that lasted two hours was torture.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ukraine Plane_Rich copy.jpg US: Russia firing into Ukraine

    Russia is launching artillery attacks from its soil on Ukrainian troops and preparing to move heavier weaponry across the border, the U.S. and Ukraine charged Friday in what appeared to be an ominous escalation of the crisis.
    Russia accused Washington of lying and charged Ukraine with firing across the border on a Russian village. It also toughened its economic measures against Ukraine by banning dairy imports.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • AP7107260254 copy.jpg Today in History for Saturday, July 26, 2014

    Today is Saturday, July 26, the 207th day of 2014. There are 158 days left in the year.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Iraq_Rich copy.jpg Iraq elects new president amid attacks

    Iraqi lawmakers elected a veteran Kurdish politician on Thursday to replace long-serving Jalal Talabani as the country’s new president in the latest step toward forming a new government. But a series of attacks killed dozens of people and Islamic militants destroyed a Muslim shrine traditionally said to be the burial place of the Prophet Jonah, underscoring the overwhelming challenges facing the divided nation.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Hong Kong Shutdown_Rich copy.jpg Hong Kong firms on edge as blockade looms

    As activists vow to shut down Hong Kong’s financial district in protest at China’s attempt to hobble democratic elections in the city, businessman Bernard Chan is preparing for the worst.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Mideast Israel Palest_Rich copy.jpg UN school in Gaza caught in cross-fire; 15 killed

    A U.N. school in Gaza crowded with hundreds of Palestinians seeking refuge from fierce fighting came under fire Thursday, killing at least 15 civilians and leaving a sad tableau of blood-spattered pillows, blankets and children’s clothing scattered in the courtyard.

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

Top News
Poll

Do you agree with the millage rate increases?

Yes. We need to maintain services
No. Services should have been cut.
     View Results