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Second Lampedusa tragedy provokes call for concrete EU action on migration

Malta coordinates rescue of 206 migrants in second shipwreck off Lampedusa, over 30 dead, but could rise to as much as 50

matthew_vella
Matthew Vella
11 October 2013, 12:00am
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and foreign minister George Vella said they will take the matter with urgency to the European Council of ministers
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and foreign minister George Vella said they will take the matter with urgency to the European Council of ministers


Constantly Updated

Malta has coordinated the search and rescue of a group of at least 206 migrants whose boat capsized, 61.4 nautical miles south off Lampedusa. 27 dead bodies have been collected by armed forces so far.

In an address at 9:15pm, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said the incident was "another wake up call for Europe".

"How many more people have to die before action is taken? Malta and Italy are working together and we feel abandoned on this operation. This is a European problem. These desperate people are looking for a future in Europe and Europe cannot go blind. The seas around us have turned into a cemetery," he said.

The AFM said there were 56 survivors - 39 men, eight women and nine infants - on an Italian warship. Another 150 survivors - 113 men, 20 women and 17 children - were on the AFM patrol boat.

"We have saved 150 people. Others required urgent medical attention, and have been airlifted to the island of Lampedusa," Muscat said.

"The rescue could take 10 hours until these migrants reach Malta, with some migrants unable to survive the journey. Dead bodies might still be recovered. Mater Dei Hospital is on full alert to give medical attention to these people. We have given instructions to open the mortuary room at St Luke's Hospital because we might not have enough room at Mater Dei Hospital."

Muscat and Italian prime minister Enrico Letta have been in communication, and agreed to raise the matter at the next European Council meeting. "We are the European frontier, it's not just our problem, it's Europe's problem. We have done our duty to save people today. Had it not been for the Maltese armed forces that effected the rescue mission and thrown a life-raft, more people would have died."



Muscat had harsh words for the EU's leaders. "So far, Europe has only had words to give us. I'm not going to emerge satisfied from the next European Council meeting unless we get concrete action."

Muscat said that apart from strengthening Libya's porous borders, he said he will hear proposals from the European Commission on legal ways of organising migration to the EU for asylum seekers.

European home affairs commissioner Cecilia Malmström said she followed the ongoing rescue operations by Malta and Italy "with sadness and anxiety".



"Unfortunately the incident has caused new victims and I express my condolences to their families and my support and gratitude to Italy and Malta and the people who are carrying out the rescue operations, whose courage and quick reaction have contributed to reducing the death toll.

"These new horrible events are happening while we still have the shocking images of the tragedy in Lampedusa in our minds and stress even more strongly the urgency of a wide Frontex search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, from Cyprus to Spain, to better detect and assist boats in distress. I reiterate my call to all EU Member States to quickly make available the necessary resources to allow Frontex to define the details of such an operation."

The Armed Forces of Malta said the boat had been followed by the rescue coordination centre and located by AFM aircraft. "Reports were that the craft, although underway towards Lampedusa, appeared unstable. A few minutes later, the aircraft reported that the boat had capsized and that numerous persons were in the water. Initial assistance was provided by the aircraft which dropped a life-raft in close proximity of the persons in distress."

The AFM said that at the moment of the rescue operation, the migrants' boat was closer to the Italian island of Lampedusa, than it was to Malta.

The migrants are expected in Malta during the night.

It is confirmed that Italy's navy vessel ITS Libra had recovered at 56 survivors including 39 males, 8 females and 9 infants or children. P61 has recovered 150 persons including 113 males, 20 females and 17 children. At least four deceased persons have also been recovered. A significant number of the survivors were rescued from a life raft deployed by an AFM B200 aircraft immediately after the capsize of the craft.

The more critical cases aboard P61 are currently being evacuated by helicopter to medical facilities in Lampedusa.



The AFM's patrol boat P61 was first to arrive on scene at around 5:51pm and immediately initiated a search and rescue operation. It was joined shortly afterwards by the Italian patrol vessel ITS Libra. "SAR activities are continuing at this time and further updates will be provided when available," the AFM said.

Hundreds of people were in the sea, the Italian navy said according to news agency ANSA.

In her statement, Cecilia Malmström said: "In the aftermath of the Lampedusa tragedy we heard solidarity expressions from all EU countries, but these will remain only empty words if they are not followed by concrete actions. I also call on North African countries, in particular Libya, to fight more effectively the criminals who put these people in unseaworthy vessels and organise these journeys of death.

"I wish to repeat my call to Member States to engage more in resettlement of refugees in order to find safe ways for them to receive protection in the EU."

Earlier Friday morning, Italian divers found another body from the refugee shipwreck last week off the coast of the island of Lampedusa, raising the death toll in the tragedy to 312.

Only 155 survivors were rescued out of an estimated 500 people, most of them Eritreans and Somalis, on the boat which departed from Libya.

Last week's disaster was one of the worst in a long migrant crisis that has seen tens of thousands of people arriving in small, unsafe boats in southern Italy. Lampedusa, a tiny island located midway between Sicily and Tunisia, has borne the brunt.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, 32,000 have arrived in southern Italy and Malta this year alone, around two thirds of whom have filed requests for asylum.
matthew_vella
Matthew Vella is executive editor at MaltaToday.
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Alphonse Grech
Dr. Busuttil fejnu? Jaqaw qieghed barra minn Malta fuq xi bicca xoghol ta fejda ghal Partit tieghu? Kif ma semmax lehnu, jew ghadu kmienibiex Jghid lill Priom Ministru qieghed jaghmel hsara lill Malta ghax qieghed jitkellem iebes dwar il-pajjizi l-ohra tal E.U dejjem b'eccezzjoni ta l-Italja. Jaqaw qieghed ihalli lill Casha u Metsola jhabbtu saqajhom huma sakemm il-kbar ta l-Ewropa jghidulhom isktu u hudu il-gazaza ghax intukhum qeqe.
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Lino Bianco
Optimal call by our Prime Minister Dr Joseph Muscat to the EU: Concrete action which does not deal with the symptoms but which addresses the cause(s)
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Antoine Vella
The most important thing is that Muscat is no longer threatening pushbacks, vetoes and suspension of the Dublin II treaty.
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Alphonse Grech
Minn qalbi nifrah lill kull minn kien involut f'din il-hidma ta salvatagg. Nifrah ukoll lill Prim Ministru ghad-diskors li ghamel waqt il-konferenzza stampa fejn wera li l-interessio Nazzjonali ma humiex se jnaqqsu l-interess li ghandu biex dawn il-povri nies jigu mejghuna bil-fatti u mhux bil-paroli biss
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Charles Taliana
Nispera u nitolbu L-AllA li isalvaw kemm jista jkun persuni minn din it-tieni tragedja f`zmien gighma . Proset ukoll lil AFM u proset lil Prim Ministru li kliemu u dejjem dirett u xejn xinxili u paroli fil vojt li gbajna nisimhu dan l-ahhar.
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John Briffa
Another tragedy in just over a week. This is a serious problem and needs to be looked after with open eyes. We know where these migrants are coming from. The country of the ports of departures should be held responsible and then maybe Libya can trace the culprits, the human traffickers and bring them to justice in Europe. The EU must patrol and take all the necessary steps to hold off illegal immigrants or vessels that enter the Mediterranean waters.
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Dr Anthony Abela Medici
Cecilia Malmstrom does "f..." all - she just sits cosy in her office and collects hundreds of thousands of euros from our money into her account. What has she done so far. NOTHING. What do we think she will do? NOTHING AS USUAL. Just paying lip service and let Malta and Italy sink down the hole. The people of these Islands are absolutely fed up with these continuous invasions. We feel abandoned by Europe. We simply cannot sustain this situation further. We are on the brink of a catastrophe.
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Christian Thorn
ALWAYS MALTA and ITALY , Italy and Malta , never Portugal and Sweden ;) Where have Malmstrom and Barroso gone? Will they be taking them on and give them a new beginning in there country or do they prefer to cry and "be emotional over corpses"?
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Polly Bonello
Let us all hope that all the migrants especially the kids are saved. One boat after an other are being rescued and all we get from the EU -especially Barroso and Malmstrom are sermons and platitudes!
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Christian Thorn
Where have Malmstrom and Barroso gone? Will they be taking them on and give them a new beginning in there country or do they prefer to cry and "be emotional over corpses"?
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Dora Buttigieg
Prosit to Karl Stagna Navarra for his excellent reporting on this issue on Al Jazeera
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