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‘Not a tragedy, but a massacre’

Fortress Europe’s migration policies slammed as over 60 people drown in shipwreck off southern Italy while the country’s far right government criminalises rescuers

REFUGEE rescue organisations condemned Europe’s migration policies and the criminalisation of rescuers today after at least 60 people, including children and a new born baby, drowned off the coast of Italy.

A boat carrying about 150 people reportedly left Turkey, near the city of Izmir three or four days ago, rounded Greece and headed toward Italy.

Their vessel broke apart after crashing into rocks as it approached the shore near the town of Crotone, in Italy’s Calabria region last night.

As the Italian coastguard saved the lives of around 80 survivors throughout the night and into the morning, bodies and the wreckage of their wooden boat washed up along the beach.

International medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) asked “how many people will have to be sacrificed until Italy and the EU guarantee search-and-rescue operations and support the life-saving work of NGOs?”

The organisation’s rescue ship, the Geo Barents, was detained by the Italian authorities last week. It was scheduled to return to the Mediterranean on Friday.

“While we are stuck in port, avoidable tragedies continue to unfold before our eyes,” MSF said.

The crew of the Iuventa rescue ship — four of whom are currently undergoing a prolonged and controversial pre-trial hearing in Italy, charged with human trafficking after saving the lives of over 14,000 lives — said the shipwrecked were killed by European politicians.

“We have said it a thousand times, building more walls only creates more dangerous routes,” the crew posted on Twitter.

“Those responsible for this massacre are those who order the pushbacks from Greece, the accomplices in Europe who have no will to change this reality, the Italian politicians who omit their duty of search-and-rescue and criminalise the operations of the civil fleet.

“People fleeing violence will continue to travel, no matter how many laws and illegal manoeuvres they invent.

“Their policies only lead to more deaths, and they know it! Their policies, and they themselves, are criminal!

“The hypocrisy of their words of condolence knows no bounds. It is they who order these executions.”

Spanish rescue organisation Open Arms also blamed the deaths on European policies.

“They [the dead] are not tragedies, they are the result of precise political choices.” Open Arms said today.

“Anyone who expresses condolences after having wanted a decree that stops relief efforts, has no respect for the lives of these vulnerable people.

“We feel profound shame at the indifference of those who govern us.”

President of the EU Commission Ursula von der Leyen said: “I am deeply saddened by the terrible shipwreck off the coast of Calabria.

“The resulting loss of life of innocent migrants is a tragedy.

“All together, we must redouble our efforts on the Pact on Migration and Asylum and on the Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean.”

In response, Nicola Canestrini, one of the lawyers representing the Iuventa three, said: “It’s the consequences of EU immigration policy, which considers people on the move a problem of public order to be handled by Frontex [the European Border and Coastguard agency].

“Von Der Leyen, don’t be a hypocrite, it’s exactly what you and EU governments wanted.”

Catholic priest and activist with Italian rescue organisation Mediterranea: Saving Humans said today’s deaths were “not tragedy, but massacre. Caused by global injustice, a lack of safe passages and indifference.

“People, including children, drowned. Survivors are traumatised.

“No more vain and hypocritical tears. As long as we allow this, words are empty. Action must be taken.”

CORRECTION: February 27, 2023

This article originally said there were three members of the Iuventa taking part in pre-trial hearings in Greece. There are actually four.

Top image shows rescue workers on the beach in Crotone, Italy [Pic: Mediterranea: Saving Humans]

Published by The Civil Fleet

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

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