Design a site like this with
Get started

At least 117 refugees drowned trying to reach Europe in the last 12 days

Activists vow to continue the fight against Fortress Europe’s deadly border regime

ACTIVISTS vowed to continue to fight against Europe’s deadly border regime today, following the deaths of at least 117 refugees at sea in the past 12 days.

Thirty-six people are feared to have lost their lives in a shipwreck that occurred off the coast of Tunisia yesterday after they escaped Libya on Wednesday.

Announcing the tragedy on social media Thursday morning, Flavio di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said: “There were 70 migrants on board. Currently, only 34 survivors [have been] rescued by the Tunisian authorities.

“Six corpses [have been] recovered. 30 more are missing. [The] search continues.”

The Spanish coastguard rescued over 300 people in the Atlantic Ocean near the Canary Islands on Wednesday. But, as the activist-run distress hotline organisation Alarm Phone said that day, the “rescue came too late for 18 people.”

The Civil Fleet reported on Tuesday on the seven bodies the Italian coastguards found after rescuing 270 people from an overcrowded wooden boat near Lampedusa.

Despite the Aita Mari refugee rescue ship reaching the boat hours before the Italians arrived, the authorities ordered the activists not to intervene.

A ten-year-old child was one of the eleven people who drowned in the Mediterranean last Saturday when their boat capsized off the coast of Tunisia. Fortunately, the Tunisian authorities were able to save 21 others.

The biggest loss of life occurred in the Atlantic 12 days ago, on January 16, when a boat carrying 55 people sank just seven nautical miles off the coast of Morocco.

Alarm Phone was able to make contact with the boat, but communication was difficult and the people on board were panicked.

The activists alerted the Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre in Rabat, but it took the Moroccan authorities 11 hours to intervene. Only 10 people survived.

“In the first month of 2022, the dying at Europe’s maritime borders has continued relentlessly,” an Alarm Phone activist told The Civil Fleet today.

“Just over the past two weeks, way over 100 people have drowned in the Atlantic and the central Mediterranean. These are the figures we know of, but it is clear that the real death toll is significantly higher.

“We were in contact with several of the boats that capsized or on which people died, and we are still searching for two boats that left from Algeria that are missing.

“We are devastated about this ongoing killing at sea, but we are not surprised – as long as there are no safe routes to migrate, people will be forced to take the dangerous routes across the sea.

“We will continue in our work to support people trying to survive their Mediterranean journeys, and we will continue to fight the EU border regime that seeks to deter them, no matter the cost.”

These deaths were a deliberate consequence of European border and foreign policies, said activist and former captain of the Iuventa rescue ship Dariush Beigui today.

“You can’t weigh hopes. You can’t measure sorrow. But we can count capsized boats if someone notices them. And we can count corpses,” Beigui told The Civil Fleet today.

“European governments have been accepting tens of thousands of deaths for years. Europe denies people their right to seek asylum, their right to live in safety, their right to legal and safe escape routes.

“Every capsized boat, every drowned person tears at our hearts and makes us angry, precisely because these deaths could be avoided, because they are deliberate, and because all of Europe knows about it. Most of them don’t care. But we do!

“To each drowned person, we promise – sometimes silently to ourselves, sometimes shouting loudly – that we will continue. We will continue to collect money, to go out with ships. But we will also continue to fight for change here in Europe, because, as I said, it is political calculation if there are no safe escape routes.

“Above all, it is our European lifestyle that drives people to flee in the first place. That is why we must continue. We owe it to the dead, to their families, but also to all the people on the move.”

Beigui and others who saved over 14,000 lives in the central Mediterranean on the Iuvenata between August 2016 and 2017 could face jail for 20 years if an Italian court deems what they did to be aiding and abetting illegal immigration.

Refugees on board the Geo Barents [Pic: Andrea Monrás / MSF]

Meanwhile, the 439 refugees aboard the Geo Barents rescue ship were finally given permission today to come ashore in Augusta, on the island of Sicily.

The Geo Barent’s operators Doctors Without Borders (MSF) announced the news this afternoon, eight days after the rescue operations began.

Elsewhere, Basque charity Humanitarian Maritime Rescue (SMH) said the Aita Mari’s crew has carried out two rescue operations in the Mediterranean today.

“There are currently 176 people on board,” SMH posted on social media this evening.

“116 men, 18 women and 42 minors [approximately]. We request a safe port for disembarkation. The state of the sea is only going to get worse.”

UPDATE: February 2, 2022

The Aita Mari disembarked the 176 refugees on Lampedusa on Sunday (January 30).

At first, the authorities on the island would not let the ship come ashore but did allow it to anchor off the coast. The weather worsened on Saturday and the ship’s anchor lifting mechanism broke.

The Aita Mari began heading towards Sicily in the hopes of being offered a port there. However, an hour into the journey, the authorities on Lampedusa advised them not to head that way through the storm and eventually allowed them to dock on the island.

Published by The Civil Fleet

A news blog and podcast focused on the activist-led refugee rescue and support missions across Fortress Europe

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: