Italian navy says 14 dead in migrant shipwreck

2014-05-13 08:37
Bodies of drowned migrants. (File, AP)

Bodies of drowned migrants. (File, AP)

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

Rome - At least 14 people died when a boat packed with migrants sank between Libya and Italy on Monday, in the latest shipwreck tragedy to hit the Mediterranean.

The Italian navy said another 200 people had been rescued, while some media reports claimed as many as 400 people had been on board the ship - just days after another migrant boat disaster off Libya.

"Fourteen bodies have been recovered so far. Medical workers on the Sirio and the Grecale are providing assistance to the 200 survivors," the Italian navy said, referring to two warships on the scene.

The local Jesuit refugee centre said the toll could be significantly higher, talking of at least 40 dead.

Medical personnel from the Order of Malta humanitarian group who assisted the survivors said there were many women and children from sub-Saharan Africa among them.

"Our personnel attended to many cases of hypothermia and dehydration," said the group's Italian head Mauro Casinghini.

Two Italian coast guard vessels and several merchant ships that scrambled to the area were also taking part in the high-seas rescue operation, the navy said, adding that a helicopter had also been deployed.

Italy recovering dead, living

Libya has long been a springboard for Africans seeking a better life in Europe and the number of illegal departures from its shores is rising due to clement weather conditions and growing lawlessness.

Hundreds of migrants land in Italy almost every day, most of them asylum-seekers from Eritrea, Somalia and Syria, and many are picked up by Italy's navy.

The latest shipwreck happened at around 1100 GMT on Monday and some 185km south of Lampedusa island, Italy's southernmost point.

The area is near an offshore oil rig in international waters and is closer to Libya than to Italian shores.

Italian media cited coast guards as saying that some 400 people had been on board the migrant boat, which would leave scores of people still unaccounted for.

"Our ships are there recovering the dead and saving the living. Europe is not helping us," Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said, adding: "The Mediterranean is not an Italian border but a European border".

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton voiced her regret at the migrants' deaths and called on the Libyan authorities "to intensify their efforts to prevent more tragedies in the future".

Immigration charities estimate that some 20 000 migrants have died in the past two decades trying to reach Italy and have called for "humanitarian corridors" to allow asylum-seekers to reach Europe.

Ansa news agency cited rescuers as saying the boat was first spotted by a patrolling Italian coast guard plane that made an emergency call to a merchant ship in the area, which became the first on the scene.

The migrant boat later sank, the report said.

European leaders expressed outrage and called for action, in a repeat of the response to the drowning of more than 400 migrants off Italy in October 2013.

European Parliament president Martin Schulz said in a tweet that he was "shocked" by the tragedy, adding: "EU must take responsibility to protect people and values".

On a visit to Brussels, Italian Foreign Minister Federica Mogherini spoke of a moral duty "as human beings to avoid people dying in the Mediterranean".

'Europe's turn to pay'

Libya said it was not involved in the rescue, with naval spokesperson Colonel Ayub Kassem saying the country "does not have the means to help with this shipwreck".

The Libyan navy also said it had intercepted and rescued 340 migrants off the western town of Sabratha when their boat began to take on water. Those aboard were mostly Sudanese and Eritreans.

And on Sunday, the navy said that 36 migrants had perished, 42 were missing and 52 were rescued following another shipwreck closer to its coast.

Italy said last month that more than 20 000 migrants had arrived on its shores this year.

Libya's interim interior minister on Saturday warned that Tripoli could "facilitate" the movement of migrants towards Europe unless the bloc helped it combat the problem.

He said Libya was "suffering" because thousands of mainly sub-Saharan Africans were spreading disease, crime and drugs in the North African nation.

"Libya has paid the price. Now it's Europe's turn to pay," Mazek added.
Read more on:    italy

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X 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
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


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 network.


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.