Freedom News

Death toll continues to rise in the Med

Report from Are You Syrious?:

At least 64 people died, many still missing off Calabria, Italy

At least 64 people are now known to have died in the shipwreck off Calabria which took place on February 25th. Survivors state there were as many as 200 people on board.

They left Izmir on February 22nd, during this time there were points where rescue was possible. Frontex had spotted the ship the night before but not initiated rescue.

Although NGOs don’t operate in this area as it is patrolled by the Guardia Costiera and Guardia di Finanza (GDF). The GDF were also aware of the boat but after sending out reconnaissance they turned back due to bad weather. This tragedy should have been prevented allowing everyone to travel safely and underlines the danger that people face when NGO boats are not present as a support system to other rescue ships. The first distress call had been sent at least 24 hours before the shipwreck, to a local Italian radio, and the Italian coordination centre had sent a generic search and rescue (SAR) warning without location. Now, Italian authorities have opened an investigation into the shipwreck, trying also to retrace the rescue attempts, if rescue attempts were made. The Italian GDF is indeed tasked with “contrasting illegal migration”, while SAR operations are handled by the coastguard. It is still unclear which patrol boats were used to try and locate the people in distress and why the coastguard, which is equipped with far more powerful vessels, and able to sail in bad sea condition did not join.

The Italian interior minister blamed the shipwreck on the people fleeing their countries, saying that “being desperate” is not reason enough to “abandon your country” and put your family at risk. While echoing old tropes of the far-right and neo-fascist movement blaming asylum seekers for fleeing war and poverty, the minister’s statement is in line with the Italian government’s position, which is lobbying the EU to introduce more externalisation instruments to prevent departures.

The route connecting Turkey to Italy is not new, but it has been used more frequently over the last two years, following the widespread use of pushbacks by the Hellenic coastguard, which makes it extremely difficult to reach the much closer coasts of the Greek islands.

Images: Sergio Scandura

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