By Joel Savage

The thirst for greener pastures in Europe has been on the increase despite the dangerous routes and hazardous journey involved. Sad stories of immigrants mainly from Africa, heading to Europe, never ceased appearing in the newspapers, yet anything serve as a deterrent to those who think coming to Europe makes one rich over night.

On Monday, September 30, 2013, thirteen asylum-seekers trying to make it to Italy, vessel ran aground, and while attempting to swim they got drowned, said the local mayor of the city near the coast where the tragedy occurred. The Italian police in the past have responded to hundreds of such situations.

Every year tens of thousands of illegal immigrants hazardously try to reach southern Italy in rickety boats from the coast of nearby North Africa. Unfortunately, many never reach their destination as the boats capsized along the journey. The latest coast tragedy cost the lives of 13 people, even though some were saved and sent to nearby hospitals.

Asylum seekers at an Italian coast. Photo credit:


“We did what we could to save human lives. Some tourists raised the alarm and helped out,” said Franco Susino, the Mayor of Sicily, where the incident took place. He added “I believe the migrants had been thrown overboard by crew members. These people are treated like animals,” he said.

The bodies were spread out on the beach in video images taken shortly after the incident and they were later wrapped in white blankets. The mayor declared Tuesday as a day of mourning. According to the media, SkyTG24 and the ANSA news agency, there were between 150 and 200 people packed on the boat. Mayor Susino confirmed that most of them were from Eritrea.

Prime Minister Enrico Letta expressed his “profound pain” for the incident and referred back to a visit in July by Pope Francis to the island of Lampedusa, where many asylum-seekers arrive. “I think back to the words of Pope Francis on Lampedusa on the need to fight the globalisation of indifference and feel the pain of these migrants as our own,” Letta said.

“Italy will continue to respect the fundamental rights of migrants and fight against the criminals who take part in human trafficking,” he said. Father Giovanni La Manna, head of the Astalli refugee centre in Rome, said: “It is no longer possible to remain indifferent in front of the continuous repetition of avoidable tragedies.”

“There should be humanitarian corridors to allow those fleeing conflicts and persecution to seek protection. This is the only way to avoid human traffickers putting lives in danger,” he said. A similar incident occurred in Catania, another part of Sicily, in August involving six young Egyptians who got drowned when trying to reach the shore. The victims had jumped from the trawler thinking they had arrived onshore when in fact they were some 15 metres away.

According to a filed report since the year over, 22,000 immigrants have reached the southern coast of Italy, three times more than the total number last year. Also on Monday, around 100 migrants landed in the southern region of Calabria and 107 Nigerians and Ghanaians were rescued and taken to the port of Trapani in another part of Sicily.

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