16 July 2012
Escape from Lybia, 54 dead at sea “They died one by one”
from La Repubblica
News from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees: the only survivor spoke of his nightmare at sea in a deflating dinghy, which after having almost reached the Italian coast was caught by high winds and taken back towards Tunisia.
ROME- There was only one survivor found by the Tunisian Coast Guard holding on to a petrol can in the night. He was the only one, his other companions- there had been 55 of them altogether- had died from dehydration after a nightmare two week journey in the middle of the sea on a deflated dinghy. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) broke the news, given by this one survivor who along with the others was attempting to reach Italian shores from Lybia. According to the survivor, an Eritrean, 55 people boarded the boat in Lybia and they all died from dehydration after a living nightmare which lasted for two weeks. “It’s a real tragedy,” declared T. Alexander Aleinikoff, vice High Commissioner for the United Nations for Refugees, “54 people are dead.”
They had almost arrived in Italy. Some fishermen had seen the man the night before off the Tunisian coast and alerted the Tunisian Coast Guard who rescued him. The man was immediately taken to hospital in Zarzis where he is being treated for exposure and dehydration. Employees of the UNHCR went to meet the survivor in hospital where he claimed to have left Tripoli at the end of June. After a day at sea the boat should have been nearing Italy but strong winds pushed it back. After a few days the boat began to deflate.
They died one by one, dehydrated. According to the survivor’s statement, there was no water on board and the passengers began to die from dehydration. Many, including the survivor himself, drank sea water. The man was rescued while holding on to the remains of the boat and a petrol can. He said about half of the deceased were Eritreans, including three members of his own family. “I appeal to Captains of boats in the Mediterranean to give the maximum attention to possible cases of migrants and refugees in difficulty who need rescuing,” said Aleinkioff. “The Mediterranean is one of the most trafficked stretches of sea in the world and it’s fundamental the ancient traditions of rescue at sea continue to be respected.” Fifty Eritreans and Somalis are still at sea. Since the beginning of the year around 1,300 people have arrived by sea from Lybia in Italy. A boat with 50 Eritreans and Somalis is still at sea after the passengers refused help from the Maltese armed forces. In 2012 so far, approximately 1,000 people have reached Malta in 14 different boats. A further two boats were intercepted by the Maltese authorities, but continued their journey in the direction of Italy. The UNHCR estimates that so far this year approximately 170 people have died or gone missing at sea whilst attempting to reach Europe from Lybia.