(Brussels 04 October) The second fatal boat trip across the Mediterranean in a week has left Italy in three days of national mourning, with fatalities from the most recent boat sinking expected to surpass 111 people. Over 155 people have been rescued from the vessel that caught fire after engine failure just 1km from the Italian coastline. The Tunisian skipper of the vessel has been arrested. Men, women and children drowned as the vessel encountered difficulties which sank within sight of the coastline.
A fire was started to attract the attention of passing vessels and aircraft when the engines failed. According to unnamed survivors quoted in the media said three fishing boats had seen the vessel was in trouble but had ignored the call for help. The Italian Minister of Interior Angelino Alfano has categorically rejected this as impossible given “Italians have big hearts”. Of a different view is Giusi Nicolini, the island’s mayor. Speaking to the Huffington Post , she said:
’Italy’s immigration law is inhumane. Three fishing boats didn’t offer rescue and left the vessel to its destiny because our country has put fishermen who helped migrants at sea under trial accusing them of facilitating illegal immigration.’
Alfano, the deputy Italian Prime Minister, said: "We hope the EU realises that this is not an Italian but a European disaster." He headed to Lampedusa vowing to "make Italy’s voice heard loudly" with José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European commission.
The people who died in this most recent tragedy were mostly from , Somalia and Ghana, countries were Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is widely practised, as acknowledged by these joint EU - UNICEF projects. FGM is a practice that is basis for asylum in the EU. Gender-based violence is a violation of human rights. UNHCR’s Guidelines on gender-related persecution in the context of Article 1(A)2 16 state that: “Rape and other forms of gender-related violence, such as dowry-related violence, female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and trafficking, are acts which inflict severe pain and suffering – both mental and physical – and which have been used as forms of persecution, whether perpetrated by State or private actors.”
Next Wednesday the European Commissioner for Humanitarian affairs, Ms Kristalina Georgieva is set to participate in World Bank (WB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF) annual meetings and will speak on Thursday at the International Monetary Fund Seminar on "The Challenge of Exiting from Fragility"; speaks at the follow-up to United Nations General Assembly Lost Generation meeting; will also meet with Mr Makhtar Diop, World Bank’s vice-president for Africa; with Ms Nancy Lindborg, Assistant Administrator for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance at United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Ms Anne Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration. We hope that during the course of these meetings more can be done to help the plight of migrants, needlessly dying on their way to Europe.