Italy arrests 5 over migrant 'massacre' at sea

2014-07-23 10:30
Police work on the boat carrying the bodies of dead migrants after being towed at Valletta in Malta a day after a rescue operation at sea. (Matthew Mirabelli, AFP)

Police work on the boat carrying the bodies of dead migrants after being towed at Valletta in Malta a day after a rescue operation at sea. (Matthew Mirabelli, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

kalahari.com

Rome - Italian police have arrested five migrants accused of the grisly murder of scores of fellow would-be refugees when fighting broke out on a boat making the treacherous crossing to Europe, local media reported.

Italian and Maltese naval crews last Saturday discovered 30 bodies - including that of a baby - of passengers who had apparently been overcome by heat and engine fumes after being locked in the hold of a boat carrying over 560 mostly-Syrian migrants, according to the reports.

And police in the Sicilian port of Messina, where the survivors were brought, were said to believe a further 110 people had been thrown into the ocean by their fellow passengers on the horror crossing from Tunisia.

Survivors told police grim details of how a journey to a better life turned into a nightmare for many onboard.

They described what they witnessed on the boat as a massacre, police told media.

According to the witnesses, migrants locked in the hold panicked as air ran out, forced the door and stormed the bridge.

The boat began to founder, and fighting erupted between two groups of passengers on the bridge - one that wanted to brave the high seas and continue the voyage, and another that wanted to return to Tunisia.

Witnesses reportedly claimed that, in the chaos, many people were stabbed, while others were thrown overboard in a bid to keep the vessel afloat.

Messina's chief of police estimated that 50 of the migrants were thrown overboard, and around 60 were stabbed and then thrown into the sea.

The five men arrested were said to be a 21-year-old Syrian, two Moroccans aged 21 and 25, a Palestinian of 25 and a Saudi aged 32.

Three of the men tried to escape, according to the Italian media, and had bus tickets for Milan in northern Italy in their pockets.

The three Tunisian traffickers, who apparently did nothing to stop the massacre, were also arrested by the police on Monday.

'Unbearable burden'

The gruesome tale is the latest tragedy to emerge from the decks of a relentless barrage of migrant boats seeking to reach Europe.

In the last week more than 1 700 migrants were rescued in Italian territorial waters, the navy said, many of them women and children. In early July, over 2 000 were plucked from the sea on only one weekend.

There has been a sharp rise in migrant landings in recent weeks because of the calm summer weather and growing lawlessness in Libya.

Around 80 000 migrants are now believed to have landed in Italy so far this year - higher than the previous record of 63 000, set in 2011 at the height of the turmoil triggered by the Arab Spring.

The deaths of hundreds of boat migrants during their voyages across the Mediterranean has thrust the issue into the public eye, and sparked growing tensions in the EU.

Border countries such as Italy complain they are being abandoned by their European partners to deal with the massive influx of people, while northern countries insist they have their own migrants to deal with.

The Italian navy launched operation Mare Nostrum (Our Sea) in October after 360 illegal migrants drowned off the island of Lampedusa in a disaster that shocked Europe and beyond.

"It's an unbearable burden for a single member state," the navy's fleet commander-in-chief, Admiral Filippo Maria Foffi, who runs Mare Nostrum, said earlier this month.
Read more on:    eu  |  italy
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
3 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Stand up paddler rides over shark!

This stand up paddler had no idea that a great white shark was directly beneath him when he went gliding out to shore.

 
 

Where were you when you last felt alive?

Bear Grylls’ top 10 things kids should do outdoors
You HAVE to see this MTB Tsunami Fip!
Mountain unicycling – say WHAT?
Top tips to ensure you’re running right

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Deal of the week!

20% off Afrikaans books, music and DVDs. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Hot gaming titles – available for pre-order!

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Day Zero Edition, Far Cry 4, Grand Theft Auto 5 and more. Pre-order now!

Get a free eBook

Buy 3 eBooks and get the cheapest FREE. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Bargain box – 60% off

Reduced prices, very limited stock. While stocks last. Hurry and shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Pushing too hard and doing too much may have left you feeling drained and overwhelmed. You may need time out to recharge and reset...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.