Mediterranean Sea Crossings Continue to Climb

Posted: 
05/19/15
Themes: 
Missing Migrants

Italy - Over 12,460 migrants arrived by sea to Italy in the month of May, according to IOM estimates. This brings the total number of migrants arriving in Italy since January 2015, based on IOM’s estimates, to 38,690.

After a few days without landings – presumably because of bad weather conditions – sea crossings have picked up again over the past week. In just three days (from Thursday 14 to Saturday 16 May), some 3,500 migrants reached Italian shores.

Among the rescued migrants were Eritreans (who at the end of April were the most represented nationality), Ethiopians, Somalis, Syrians, Nigerians, Gambians and other sub-Saharan nationals.

“The majority of the operations are being carried out by the Italian Coast Guard and the Italian Navy,” said Federico Soda, Director of the IOM Coordination Office for the Mediterranean in Rome. “A significant number of commercial ships were also involved in the operations, together with some Triton, British and German ships, and the MOAS/MSF ships Phoenix and Bourbon Argos.”

The Prosector’s Office of Catania is meanwhile conducting an investigation into the shipwreck of April 18th off Libya . Last week, the Italian authorities reported finding the sunken vessel, which may contain the corpses of several hundred migrants.

This weekend, the Prosecutors’ Office informed Italian media that the bodies will not be brought up to the surface by the judicial enquiry, because their recovery would be expensive, slow and “not useful” to the investigation of the smugglers. It said that recovery of the bodies could be carried out by the government for humanitarian reasons.

“We believe, as IOM, that the families should be allowed to identify the bodies of their loved ones and to grieve for them,” said IOM Director General William Lacy Swing.

“What happened must be considered murder, as hundreds of migrants – even if not locked up – were trapped in the lower deck and did not have the chance to save themselves during the shipwreck. We welcome the ongoing Italian investigation aimed at bringing the perpetrators of this crime to justice. But we also hope that the bodies will be recovered and won’t be left at the bottom of the Mediterranean,” he added.

In what is considered the worst tragedy to occur in the Mediterranean in recent years, almost 800 migrants lost their lives. Only 28 people survived and just 24 bodied were recovered.  

The investigations have confirmed the first testimonies of the migrants on the number of the people on board, but it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to identify the nationality, gender and age of all the victims.

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

 

The Italian Coast Guard rescues migrants bound for Italy. © Francesco Malavolta/IOM 2014