Socialist Worker

‘A massacre at Europe’s borders’ as over 100 refugees are drowned

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2731

Refugees in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya

Refugees in the Mediterranean, off the coast of Libya (Pic: Tim Lüddemann/creative commons)


More than 110 refugees died in the space of three days in the Mediterranean Sea last week.

Four refugee boats were shipwrecked off the coast of Libya.

Over 70 people’s bodies washed up on a beach in al-Khums in the west of the north African country.

They were on a boat of more than 120 people, according to the United Nations International Organisation of Migration.

Some 47 survivors were brought to shore by coastguard and fishing workers on Thursday of last week.

Only a few hours after the bodies were found, the Medecins Sans Frontiers/Doctors Without Borders charity helped three victims of another shipwreck.

It said those who survived “saw loved ones disappear beneath the waves, dying in front of their eyes”. Some 20 people drowned in the wreck off the coast of the Libyan town of Sorman. 

The day before another six refugees—including a six month old boy—drowned when a dinghy with over 100 people capsized. The baby boy, originally from Guinea in West Africa, died on board the rescue ship after he was saved from the waves. A tweet from the Open Arms rescue organisation said, “Despite the enormous commitment of our medical team, a six-month-old baby has just died.

“We requested an urgent evacuation for him and other people in serious conditions, but he didn’t make it.

“How much pain and sorrow!”

The boat had begun to deflate only a few hours after leaving the Libyan coast. Riccardo Gatti, the president of Open Arms Italy, said rescuers found themselves “in front of a dramatic scene”.

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“The boat had practically imploded and hundreds of people found themselves in the water, in the open sea,” he said. “Some were children.”

A spokesperson for the Alarm Phone refugee aid organisation said, “This is a massacre at Europe’s borders. What else can we say? We have called for radical changes for years and still the dying continues. It is devastating.’’

Charities say people smugglers are taking advantage of calmer waves in autumn to send boats across the Mediterranean.

These traffickers are small-time gangsters whose exploitative business model is based on the European Union’s border regime.

Refugees would not be forced to rely on smugglers if they had safe and legal routes to safety in Europe.

Meanwhile, refugees who make it to Europe face more repression and racism. Around 50 people being held at Penally camp, near Tenby in west Wales, protested last week over living conditions inside.

They are demanding that the Home Office shuts the camp and rehouses them in decent and safe accommodation.

Supporters of Stand Up To Racism West Wales held a solidarity protest outside the camp last Saturday.


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