Woman And Baby Drown, Migrants Missing In Libya Shipwreck

FILE PHOTO: Illegal migrants of different African nationalities arrive at a naval base in the capital Tripoli on April 22, 2018, after they were rescued off the coast of Zlitan from two inflatable boats. PHOTO: MAHMUD TURKIA / AFP

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A woman and baby drowned on Sunday off the Libyan coast, while up to 25 migrants remain missing after their engine was stolen and their boat sank, the coastguard said.

Their bodies were recovered while the 73 other migrants were rescued after fishermen alerted the Libyan coastguard, said spokesman Ayoub Kacem.

The group had been left without an engine after it was stolen at sea by unknown assailants, he added.

The dinghy was drifting some 14 nautical miles from Garabulli, east of the capital Tripoli, when it started taking on water and ultimately sank.

Forty men, 25 women, and eight children were saved and taken to a centre in the Tripoli suburbs, Kacem said.

The survivors, some of whom were injured, come from Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, and Sudan.

Between 80 and 100 people were on board the dinghy, leaving up to 25 missing, according to a separate coastguard statement citing survivors’ testimony.

Libya, which has been mired in chaos in recent years, is a key departure point for migrants hoping to reach European shores.

Nearly 20,000 people have crossed the Mediterranean Sea so far this year, while more than 500 are dead and missing, according to the United Nations refugee agency.

There has been a significant drop in the numbers reaching Italy, following a controversial deal signed with Libya and Rome adopting a hardline migration stance.

Kacem said the “efforts of the Libyan coastguard have allowed a fall of more than 75 percent of the number of departures of migrants” from the country’s shores.

The change has let to “far fewer shipwrecks and victims at sea,” he said.

AFP

Macron Calls For ‘Humane Solutions’ To Rescue Migrants Stranded Off Italy

A video grab taken from a footage released by France Televisions on December 25, 2018 shows France’s president Emmanuel Macron (L) gesturing as he speaks during a special program dedicated to French soldiers at the military airbase in N’Djamena, on December 25, 2018.
Handout / FRANCE TELEVISIONS / AFP

 

French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday there is a need for “humane solutions” to rescue operations in the Mediterranean, citing the case of 47 migrants stranded off Italy’s coast.

Macron called for the group saved on January 19 to be disembarked in the nearest port “in Italy”, which has so far refused to allow the NGO-run rescue ship to dock.

Speaking in Cyprus during a leaders’ summit, Macron pushed for countries to share responsibility for the migrants and said France would play its part.

Death Toll From Tunisia Migrant Shipwreck Rises To 52

People wait to receive the bodies of loved ones in the Tunisian town of Sfax on June 4, 2018, after more than 50 migrants drowned in the Mediterranean on the previous day, the majority off the coasts of Tunisia and Turkey. PHOTO: SOFIENE HAMDAOUI / AFP

 

The Tunisian navy has recovered four more corpses from a deadly shipwreck of migrants over the weekend, bringing the official number of victims to 52, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

“The toll is now at 52 corpses recovered, 48 of which have been identified,” ministry spokesman Khalifa Chibani told AFP.

Chibani said the identified bodies belonged to “36 Tunisians and 12 foreigners”, referring to migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

A total of 68 survivors — including 60 Tunisians — have been rescued since search operations began early Sunday off the Mediterranean coast of Tunisia’s southern city of Sfax.

Survivors said there were at least 180 people on board when the overloaded fishing vessel began to sink late Saturday night near Tunisia’s Kerkennah Islands off Sfax.

Search efforts continued Tuesday, with a helicopter flying over the island chain, according to an AFP journalist on site.

Police had deployed across the islands ahead of an anticipated visit later Tuesday by Prime Minister Youssef Chahed.

On Monday, Chahed called for greater efforts to quickly dismantle the “criminal networks that profit from these young people looking to emigrate and putting their lives in danger”.

Tunisian authorities are hunting for eight suspects, all of whom are from Kerkennah, the interior ministry said.

The shipwreck is the deadliest in the Mediterranean since February 2, when 90 people drowned off the coast of Libya, according to the International Organization for Migration.

On Monday the IOM said “at least 112 people died” in the weekend wreck, with dozens still missing based on survivors’ accounts of passenger numbers.

The Sfax sinking came as Italy’s new hardline Interior Minister Matteo Salvini visited the Italian island of Sicily — one of the main landing points for migrants attempting to reach Europe from Tunisia and Libya.

Salvini used the trip on Sunday to promote his anti-immigration stance, saying he would not allow Italy to become “the refugee camp” of Europe.

Tunisians and other migrants regularly try to cross the Mediterranean to seek a better future in Europe.

In March, 120 people — mostly Tunisians — were rescued by the navy as they tried to reach the Italian coast.

AFP

90 Migrants Feared Dead As Boat Capsizes Off Libya

At least 90 people were feared dead on Friday in the latest migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, the UN migration agency said.

The tragedy happened off the coast of Zuwara in the early hours Friday, International Organization for Migration (IOM) spokeswoman Olivia Headon told reporters in Geneva by phone from Tunis.

“At least 90 migrants are reported to have drowned when a boat capsized off the coast of Libya this morning”, the IOM said in a statement.

The agency said that “10 bodies are reported to have washed up on Libyan shores”, including those of two Libyans and eight Pakistanis.

Two survivors from the disaster had swum to shore, while another was rescued by a fishing boat, it added.

The agency has repeatedly issued warnings over the extreme dangers facing migrants who try to reach Europe via the so-called central Mediterranean route, which connects Libya to Italy.

IOM said Friday that more than 6,600 migrants and refugees had already entered Europe by sea this year, with central Mediterranean route crossings to Italy accounting for nearly 65 percent of the entries.

It voiced surprise that Libyans were among the dead, pointing out that only 29 Libyan nationals were rescued or intercepted trying to cross the Mediterranean in all of 2017, with no Libyan deaths recorded last year.

Asked if it was common to see Libyans among the migrants trying to cross to Europe, IOM spokesman Joel Millman said: “we haven’t (really) seen that before.”

“They could have been smugglers,” he told AFP.

A large number of Pakistanis found dead could meanwhile hint at a shift in migration trends.

IOM pointed out that Pakistanis made up the 13th largest group trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe last year, with 3,138 of them arriving in Italy in 2017, and no recorded sea deaths.

But they have already climbed to third place this year, with an estimated 240 Pakistanis reaching Italy in January, compared to just nine during the same month last year.

– 16,000 drowned –

Drownings in the Mediterranean began surging in 2013 as Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II began picking up speed, with hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Over the past five years, more than 16,000 people have died while trying to make the perilous crossing to Europe, according to IOM numbers.

Excluding Friday’s tragedy, 246 migrants and refugees have already died while trying to cross the Mediterranean since the beginning of the year, compared to 254 casualties during the first month of 2017.

Two hundred and eighteen of the deaths this year occurred on the central route, IOM said, while 28 happened on the western route that links North Africa to Spain.

No deaths have been recorded this year on the eastern Mediterranean route that connects Turkey and Greece, used by 1,089 migrants so far in 2018.

The EU last year reached controversial agreements with chaos-wracked Libya to stem the flow of migrants from that country, following a more comprehensive deal with Turkey in 2016, which sharply reduced the numbers crossing to Greece.

Casualties in the eastern Mediterranean have dropped dramatically since then.

In the 22 months since the deal with Turkey was reached in April 2016, fatalities on that route have fallen to an average of 6.75 per month, from 96.25 per month during the year prior to the agreement, IOM said.

AFP

Around 1,400 Migrants Rescued In Mediterranean, Two Bodies Recovered

Some 1,400 migrants were pulled to safety in the Mediterranean on Tuesday, while rescuers recovered two lifeless bodies from boats attempting the perilous crossing, Italy’s coast guard said.

The Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms said it had come to the aid of an overcrowded boat carrying some 400 people in extremely dangerous conditions, and one of the dead was a child.

Vessels belonging to the Italian police and coast guard, the EU’s anti-trafficking mission Sophia and Proactiva launched 11 separate rescue operations to save people from seven dinghies, three small wooden boats and one large one.

Proactiva said there were 175 women and 75 children among those it rescued, adding that they had spent “too many hours crammed into two levels in terrible conditions. (The boat) could sink at any moment”.

Those rescued had been “breathing death,” it added.

“An unbearable sight. A dead child and there may be more. More innocent corpses for the death toll of shame,” it said on Twitter in Spanish.

Nearly 1,000 people have been rescued and brought to Italy since the start of the year, down 60 percent on arrivals registered in the same period last year, according to Italy’s interior ministry.

The numbers being plucked from rickety boats has dropped significantly since Italy forged a controversial Brussels-backed deal last summer with forces in Libya to block migrants from setting out for Europe.

The UN’s refugee agency said 173 people have died attempting the crossing from North Africa in 2018.

AFP

NASS Probes Death Of 26 Nigerians In Mediterranean Sea

NASS Probes Death Of 26 Nigerians In Mediterranean Sea

The National Assembly has resolved to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of 26 Nigerian girls in the Mediterranean Sea.

This comes days after Italian investigators launched a murder inquiry into the death of the victims who were said to have drowned while attempting the perilous crossing from Libya to Europe.

READ ALSO: Italy To Investigate Death Of 26 ‘Nigerian Women’ In Migrant Shipwreck

During Thursday’s plenary in the Senate, Chairperson of the Committee on Diaspora, Senator Rose Oko, called for emergency measures to address the root causes of the exodus of young Nigerians to foreign lands.

“The Senate is concerned that as at May 2017, it was reported that about 10,000 Nigerians had perished along the Sahara Desert, Libya and the Mediterranean Sea routes.

“Even more horrifying is a suspicion that they had been sexually abused and murdered,” Senator Oko said.

On his part, Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna State said the death of the 26 girls was part of a tragedy which has gone on for far too long.

“it’s unfortunate that African nations, including Nigeria, continuously ignore this tragedy that is before us,” he said.

Similarly, in the House of Representatives, the House Leader, Honourable Femi Gbajabiamila, called for an investigation into the cause of death of the migrants.
“The question that arises now is how come they were found dead at sea, what happened to the remaining passengers that went away alive,” he wondered.

Consequently, the Senate and the House of Representatives directed their committees on diaspora to liaise with the Libyan Embassy to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of the 26 girls.

 ‘10,000 Illegal Nigerian Migrants Have Died This Year’

 

File photo

In their search of greener pastures, 10,000 Nigerians are reported to have died between January and May 2017, while trying to illegally migrate through the Mediterranean Sea and the deserts.

Assistant Comptroller-General of the Nigerian Immigration Service In Charge of Training and Manpower Development, Mr Maroof Giwa, says that 4,900 Nigerians died in the Mediterranean Sea while other lost their lives while going through the deserts in their bid to cross to Europe.

He gave the figures in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital on Friday on the sidelines of an event to stop ‘trafficking in persons and smuggling of migrants at various borders.

The NIS says it will also deploy surveillance helicopters to track down citizens using illegal routes to leave the country.

Nigeria has signed a number of agreements and treaties to stop trafficking in persons and smuggling of illegal migrants.

READ ALSO: 258 Nigerians Return From Libya

Scores Of Bodies Wash Ashore In Libya

bodiesAuthorities in Libya have counted at least 87 bodies washed ashore in the Libyan city of Zawiya.

It is believed that the bodies were part of a group trying to cross the Mediterranean, but had drowned at sea.

A torn rubber boat was found nearby, even as it is feared that more bodies may surface as such vessels usually carry about 120 people.

Spokesperson for the Libyan Red Crescent, Mohammed Al-Misrati, said the bodies would be taken to a cemetery for unidentified people in the capital, Tripoli.

The United Nations has warned of increased numbers of migrants trying to cross the sea.

The UN recalled that at least 5,000 people drowned in 2016 while trying to reach Europe, as they travelled through the Mediterranean Sea.

Nigerian Woman Gives Birth On Rescue Ship

Mediterranean, Nigerian woman, rescue ship
PHOTO: MSF

A healthy baby boy has been born to a Nigerian woman, aboard a rescue ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

The parents, Otas and Faith Oqunbor, had been rescued from an overcrowded rubber boat.

They had been making the journey across the sea, with their two other children, aged seven and five, and were rescued just 24 hours before the baby, whom they named Newman Otas, was born.

MSF communications officer, Alva White took to Twitter on Monday to report the baby’s birth.

“Just over an hour ago a baby boy was born on board the Aquarius. Mum, bub, dad and two big brothers are all well,” she said.

Mrs Oqunbor said that she had experienced contractions for three days.

Medecins Sans Frontier said that because baby Otas was born on international waters, his nationality is still debatable,” the gorgeous little guy was born in international waters so his nationality is still under discussion.”

At least 392 people had been on the same boat with the Oqunbors before the rescue. Seven of them were pregnant.

Extradited Smuggler, Wrong Man Says Friend   

Extradited SmugglerIt seems there may be a case of mistaken identity in the story of a man extradited to Italy on Tuesday on people smuggling charges.

The friend of the extradited smuggler, on Tuesday, said that the Police have deported the wrong person.

Prosecutors believe a man named Mered Medhanie, known as the general, is the person responsible for the operations to smuggle migrants from Africa to Europe.

But the extradited Eritrean man was named by friends as Mered Tesfamariam.

On Wednesday, the court said it had extradited to Italy an Eritrean national suspected of being a kingpin in an organised-crime network responsible for bringing thousands of migrants and refugees to Europe, the Palermo, Sicily.

“Mered is accused of being the advocate and boss of one of the most important criminal groups operating in central Africa and Libya that smuggles people first across the Sahara desert and then the Mediterranean Sea,” the court, led by prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi said in a statement.

Mered is suspected of working with an Ethiopian, Ghermay Ermias, who is still at large. Between them, they allegedly gathered in huge sums by bringing migrants from Libya to Italy across the Mediterranean on overcrowded and often unseaworthy boats.

The smuggling networks have mostly eluded international law enforcement agencies because they are based on anonymous cells spread across many countries.

Italy has been on the frontline of the immigration crisis.

Some 170,000 migrants reached Italy by sea in 2014 and 153,800 in 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration.

So far this year, just more than 40,000 migrants have arrived.

Syria Conflict: Russia Pounds ISIS Targets

cruise missilesRussia has stepped up its attacks on the Islamic State (ISIS) militant group in Syria, bombarding targets with cruise missiles from warships in the Mediterranean and Caspian seas.

The Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Shoigu, said that in four days of heavy bombings against ISIS, more than 100 cruise missiles were launched and more than 800 terrorist targets were destroyed in Syria.

The strikes came after Moscow confirmed on Tuesday, that a bomb brought down a Russian airliner over Egypt in October. The ISIS-affiliated Sinai Province group claimed responsibility for the attack in which 224 people died, saying it was revenge for Russia’s intervention in Syria.

Mr Shoigu said that the Russian air force had conducted 522 sorties and deployed more than 100 cruise missiles since Tuesday.

The UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that Russian warplanes conducted air raids in the Idlib, Hama and Lattakia provinces on Friday. At least eight people were killed in 50 air raids in the oil-rich Deir Ezzor province.

Mr Shoigu said that Russian warplanes had targeted 15 oil storage and refinery facilities and 525 oil trucks belonging to terrorists over the past week.

However, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said that a lot more needs to be done to produce the expected result.

EU To Back Smuggler’s Boat Destruction In Mediterranean

euThe European Union (EU) Foreign and Defence Ministers are expected to approve a mission to destroy the boats used by people-smugglers operating in Libya.

At a meeting in Brussels, the Ministers will also discuss the mission’s command-and-control structure and headquarters.

This is part of the EU’s response to the vast number of illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East crossing the Mediterranean Sea to reach Europe.

Report suggests that more than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2015. This is a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.

On arrival for the meeting, EU Foreign Policy Chief, Federica Mogherini, said: “Today the main point will be taking the decision to establish the operation, the EU operation at sea to dismantle the criminal networks that are smuggling people in the Mediterranean”.

“We are looking for partnership with the Libyan authorities, with all the relevant Libyan authorities,” she said.