Migrants die of thirst en route to Italy

The rescued man, who drank sea water to survive, was spotted clinging to a jerry can and the remains of the stricken boat off the Tunisian coast on Monday night by fishermen who alerted the coast guard, the UNHCR said.

The man, who is being treated in a Tunisian hospital, said there was no fresh water on board and people started to perish within days, including three members of his family.

He said that 55 people boarded the boat in the Libyan capital Tripoli in late June, and that more than half were from Eritrea, including himself.

They were unable to call for help because the boat's satellite phone was broken, according to Father Mussie Zerai, an Eritrean priest who spoke to the survivor by telephone on Wednesday.

"He said they were at sea for 15 days in total," the priest said. "They had apparently reached Italian waters but they weren't able to call for help because the satellite phone was broken, so the wind pushed them back out into open sea.

"During those 15 days the people on board slowly began dying of hunger and thirst. They were lost, they could not orient themselves.

'Awful state'
"He is recovering. In a few days he said he would be moving to a refugee camp."

In his account of the ordeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the survivor said the boat had punctured and air started to leak out.

"He's in a pretty awful state and he's obviously gone through a terrible, terrible experience progressively watching his family members dying," said Sybella Wilkes, UNHCR spokesperson.

"This is a tragedy," said Alexander Aleinikoff, deputy high commissioner for refugees. "I call upon all vessels at sea to be on heightened alert for migrants and refugees needing rescue in the Mediterranean."


The UN agency estimates that 170 people have been declared dead or lost at sea attempting to make the journey from Libya to Europe so far this year.

Spurned by immigrants
Greece and Italy are the two main entry points for undocumented immigrants into the European Union, and Italy in particular has seen a spike in arrivals over the past year following the Arab Spring revolts in North Africa.

Malta is also a frequent landing point but is increasingly being spurned by immigrants worried about the relatively lengthy registration process for new arrivals, the UNHCR said.

"With that knowledge, people are going on to Italy," said Wilkes.

"We didn't see this at all last year, that boats are finding their way to Malta and then refusing to go in."

So far in 2012, more than 1 300 people have made the sea journey to Italy from Libya, the UNHCR said. The busiest period for crossings is from May to September, when the Mediterranean Sea is at its calmest, the agency added. – Sapa-AFP

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Sapa Afp
Guest Author
Advertising

Protective equipment for schools in KwaZulu-Natal goes ‘missing’

Without protective equipment, schools in uMlazi, Pinetown and Zululand won’t meet the already delayed deadline for reopening

The statue of Louis XVI should remain forever handless

A statue of the French king in Louisville, Kentucky was damaged during the protests against police killings. It should not be repaired
Advertising

Press Releases

Empowering his people to unleash their potential

'Being registered as an AGA(SA) means you are capable of engineering an idea and turning it into money,' says Raymond Mayekisa

What is an AGA(SA) and AT(SA) and why do they matter?

If your company has these qualified professionals it will help improve efficiencies and accelerate progress by assisting your organisation to perform better

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday