Mediterranean Migrants Arrive in Italy, Greece – More Deaths Reported

Posted: 
07/14/15
Themes: 
Missing Migrants

Italy - Through last weekend, approximately 4,800 migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean and brought to Italian and Greek ports. The Italian Coast Guard saved 3,720 migrants in the Channel of Sicily, while Hellenic maritime forces brought to safety another approximately 1,100 migrants.

Tuesday a total of 611 migrants rescued since Sunday night are due to arrive in the port of Taranto on the Swedish coast guard ship Poseidon. It is not known at this time if they were rescued from a single craft or from several. Another 200 rescued migrants arrived Monday night in Lampedusa.

Officials in Tunisia have reported that a shipwreck occurred in Tunisian waters on Friday 10 July: the Tunisian Coast Guard rescued 49 migrants and recovered the bodies of at least five others. Another 20  bodies are still to be recovered.

This shipwreck was the latest in a deadly series this year and occurred on the heels of two other incidents last week: one in the Aegean Sea, during which at least 19 migrants drowned, and one in the Channel of Sicily, where a total of 12 migrants – 8 men and 4 women – perished.

According to IOM estimates, over 1,900 migrants have drowned so far this year in their attempts to reach Europe by sea, of those more than 1,840 perished trying to reach Italy.

This, however, almost certainly understates the total, as many more perish during the lengthy Sahara-crossing. Just last month, the remains of 30 migrants were found in Dirkou (Niger); it can be surmised that they were attempting to reach Libya, and from there Europe, but died in the desert.

The survivors of the most recent Channel of Sicily shipwreck were brought to the port of Palermo on the morning of Saturday 11 July by the Italian Coast Guard ship “Dattilo”, which rescued a total of 717 migrants in several different operations. Together with the migrants, the ship also brought ashore the bodies of the 12 victims recovered. 

IOM staff in Southern Italy, who provide legal counselling to incoming migrants and support the relevant authorities in the identification of vulnerable people, spoke to some of the survivors of the shipwreck.

“This was one of the most emotionally challenging landings I have ever witnessed,” said IOM Italy spokesperson Flavio Di Giacomo.  “I spoke to some of the migrants and they were all exhausted, both mentally and physically. Only the youngest children seemed to be immune.”

The last few weeks have seen a change in the modes of transportation from Libya to Europe: while smugglers used to favor wooden fishing boats, as they had a greater capacity, it now seems that rubber dinghies have become the preferred vessels. Some reports suggest that smugglers have now greater difficulty in finding fishing boats and have thus become more reliant on rubber dinghies, which appear to be easier to acquire.

While the wooden boats could transport up to 700-800 people, the dinghies can transport approximately 100-120 people. This may be the reason why, even though the number of arrivals by sea to Italy has increased in absolute terms by 7,000 compared to last year, June saw the same number of arrivals as May, despite forecasts of another peak in the summer season.

"It was terrible," explained “Ahmed,” one of a handful of Moroccans in the group, which included mainly Gambians, Nigerians, Somalis, Eritreans, and Bengalis.

"We left Zwara, in Libya, at 7:00 am. After just six hours, the unseaworthy rubber dinghy on which we were travelling began to deflate because of the heat, and the bow started to take on water. Panic broke out: we were more than 100 and everyone rushed to the stern of the boat. Many fell into the water and some drowned immediately. I was able to stay afloat because I had been able to buy a life jacket for EUR 30 in Zwara,” he said.

For “Abduraman,” a 15-year-old Somali—one of the 717 migrants who arrived in the port of Palermo on Saturday--the journey was hard. He left Somalia with a group of friends several months ago. He recounted the hazards of passing through Libya, where he was beaten and abused like many other transiting migrants. His back still bears the bruises from beatings he received.

The testimony of other survivors yielded dramatic details: four of the 12 migrants who perished were women, two of whom were pregnant. They didn't drown; they were crushed by the crowd on board. One of the two women, from Nigeria, was travelling with her husband and her two-year-old daughter. The man, still in shock, was immediately transferred with his daughter to a reception center.

“John,” from Nigeria, told IOM: "I hung on to the dinghy for more than one hour. Thank God rescuers arrived, I don't think I could have held on in the water for much longer."

IOM staff, working on the Palermo dock, are providing legal counselling and helping the authorities in identifying vulnerable groups: unaccompanied minors, potential victims of trafficking, and cases that need special attention and care.

Many migrants explained that they were forced to flee from Libya because of the violence in the country. “Jeremy,” also from Nigeria, used to work as a mechanic, but said that he could not live in the country any longer. “Mohamed,” from Morocco, lived for many years in Tripoli, but the increasing violence and the impossibility of getting paid for his work convinced him to attempt the crossing.

Some 75,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea since the beginning of the year. The number of women victims of trafficking is also on the rise. The girls, mainly from Nigeria, often are subjected to psychological abuse by criminal organizations before being trafficked to Europe for sexual exploitation.

Syrian arrivals in Italy, however, are decreasing. Some 4,000 Syrians arrived by the end of June, while in the same period last year there were 12,000. Greece now appears to be their preferred route, although some still choose the longer and more dangerous route passing through Libya.

Arrivals by sea and deaths in the Mediterranean, 1 January – 13 July, 2015

Country of Arrival

Arrivals

Deaths

Italy

78,183 (IOM est.)

1,841
(Central Med route)

Malta

94

Greece

79,338

55
(Eastern Med route)

Spain

1,217

18
(Western Med and Western African routes)

Estimated Total

158,832

1,914                  

Data on deaths of migrants compiled by RES. All numbers are minimum estimates. Arrivals estimates based on data from respective governments and IOM field offices.

  •  2014 Totals: 170,100 arrived in Italy

 

Arrivals by sea to Italy
January – June 2014/2015
(source: Italian MOI)

 

Main Countries of Origin

2014

2015

 

Eritrea

19,171

18,676

 

Nigeria

3,311

7,897

 

Somalia

2,293

6,334

 

Syria

12,014

4,271

 

Gambia

3,562

3,593

 

Sudan

736

3,589

 

Senegal

1,861

2,839

 

Tot. all Countries of Origin

63,884

70,354

 

 

Arrivals by sea to Italy
January to June 2014/2015
(source: Italian MOI)
 

2014

2015

January

2,171

3,528

February

3,335

4,354

March

5,459

2,283

April

15,679

16,063

May

14,599

21,221

June

22,641

22,905

TOTAL

63,884

70,354

Arrivals BY SEA TO GREECE

1 January - 12 July 2015

79,338

 

  • 2015 Totals: 79,338
  • 2014 Totals: 34,442 arrived by sea to Greece.

 

Arrivals by sea to GREECE January - may 2014/2015

2014

2015

6,576

40,297

 

 

Arrivals by sea to GREECE Jan – May 2015

Main Countries of Origin

Tot.

Syria

22,582

Afghanistan

10,053

Pakistan

2,254

Iraq

1,328

Somalia

971

For further information, please contact Flavio Di Giacomo at IOM Italy, Tel: +39 347 089 8996, Email: fdigiacomo@iom.int

 

As more migrants arrived in Italy and Greece, more deaths at sea are reported.