Mediterranean Sea: graveyard for migrants

By Ayaz Ahmed

The Italian navy has recovered the bodies of 45 migrants who drowned on Friday , while dozens of others are still missing in the third major tragedy in the Mediterranean in recent days.The Mediterranian Sea has proved to be the most shocking graveyard for innocent people fleeing a slew of conflicts in the Middle East and Africa to settle in Europe. Unfortunately, most European countries have shut their humanitarian doors for migrants on mere security grounds.

The Italian coastguards dispatched rescue ships after it had received a call for help just a day after another shipwreck had left up to 30 dead. During its extensive and continuing search efforts, the Italian  navy saved 130 people and was still searching for others. The navy said on its Twitter that, “The vessel Vega rescued 135 migrants from a sinking vessel. Forty-five bodies were recovered and search efforts are ongoing.”

The coastguard said about 1,900 people were saved on Friday from 16 vessels in suffering, adding to an estimated 10,000 people already rescued near the Libyan coast in the past four days.“It’s astounding. We are almost at the level of the Greek islands last year,” said Flavio di Giacomo, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration, referring to a period when thousands arrived there from Turkey every day.

About 40,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Italy’s southern ports so far this year. But in one of the worst tragedies in the Mediterranean recently, a fishing trawler with some 650 people capsized off the coast of Libya on Wednesday.

The Italian navy, which captured the tragedy in a horrifying video that shows the boat roll over and dumps its passengers into the water, was able to rescue about 560 people. But at least five people died and 100 are still feared missing, according to many survivors who reported having lost a loved one or a fellow passenger. On Thursday, the EU’s naval force said up to 30 migrants were believed to have died after another ship flipped over off Libya.

migrants on a wrecked ship in the Mediterranean Sea.

But more than 26,000 migrants have already landed on Italy’s shores so far this year after setting off from Libya. Last year, some 1.3 million refugees, mostly from conflict-ridden Syria and Iraq, asked for asylum in the European Union—more than a third of them in Germany.

The world seems to have lost the sympathy for the suffering migrants who are unwittingly leaving their conflict-ridden countries in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia to live peacefully on the European continent. Leaders of the G7 nations, meeting in Japan,on Friday pledged more funds to tackle the migrant crisis, but they turned a blind eye to the major causes of mass migration such as protracted conflicts and civil wars in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and African countries.

The world should come out of mere national interests and national security  , and  take prompt actions by resolving the conflicts raging in the Middle East and Africa. Equally important, the US and its European partners including Russia must avoid militarily ruining nations for purported national security. The so-called Muslim Ummah should awake from its lingering slumber by coming forward to safeguarding the lives of the hapless migrants.

The writer is editor of The Asia Watch.



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