Lampedusa deaths: Italy and EU must do more to protect lives at Europe's borders

Following reports of the deaths of over 100 migrants off the Italian island of Lampedusa this morning, Amnesty International says the Italian authorities and the European Union must do more to protect the lives of migrants trying to reach Europe.

The boat they were travelling in – reportedly from Libya – was apparently carrying more than 500 migrants, mainly from Eritrea and Somalia, when it caught fire and sank. Around 120 people have been rescued and more than 100 bodies have so far been brought to shore. Many more are still missing.

Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director Jezerca Tigani said:

“The waters around the small island of Lampedusa have again tragically become a graveyard for migrants. These grim events keep repeating themselves as thousands of people make the perilous trip across the Mediterranean to seek protection or a better life.

“It is high time the Italian authorities and the EU increased their search-and-rescue capacity and co-operation in the Mediterranean Sea, rather than concentrating resources on closing off the borders. More must be done to prevent further loss of life in the future.”

Survivors have described the horrific ordeal they endured in this latest tragedy – with dead bodies floating in the water as crews from fishing vessels frantically tried to rescue the living.

Another boat carrying more than 460 migrants arrived in Lampedusa shortly before today’s shipwreck. Those on board are now housed at the island’s centre for migrants, which currently holds around 700 people.

This is the second shipwreck of a migrant boat off Italy’s coast this week.

On Monday 13 migrants, the majority from Eritrea, drowned when their boat ran aground off Ragusa in Sicily. The traffickers (scafisti) on board the sinking vessel reportedly forced the migrants to jump to their deaths in the sea by whipping them and threatening them with knives.

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