By Charlie Kimber
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2868

EU rulers have blood on their hands after refugee boat sinks near Italy

The EU has built nearly 2,000 kilometres of steel walls and razor wire fences to keep refugees out
Issue 2868
Anti-racist activists on a vigil for refugees who drowned in the  Mediterranean on London with Stand Up to Racism Key Word: Lampedusa

Anti-racists stand in solidarity with refugees in London (Picture: Guy Smallman)

At least 41 refugees and migrants have drowned in a shipwreck off the island of Lampedusa in Italy. It is a mass murder that flows directly from the border regime that has made it harder and harder for people to enter the European Union.

In Britain the same anti-migrant policies saw Tory deputy chair Lee Anderson say asylum seekers who don’t want to be housed on barges should “fuck off back to France”.

The Ansa news agency reported on Wednesday that survivors of the Mediterranean shipwreck told rescuers they were on a boat that had come from Sfax in Tunisia. The survivors said the seven-metre metal boat, which was carrying 45 passengers, set off last Thursday. It travelled for around six hours before it was capsized by a large wave.

The survivors, three men and a woman from the Ivory Coast and Guinea, added they were rescued by a cargo ship and transferred to an Italian coast guard boat. Three children were among the dead, they told Ansa.

It comes only days after two boats capsized in the same area, prompting a rescue operation of more than 55 people.

Separately, Tunisian authorities said on Monday that they had recovered 11 bodies from a shipwreck near Sfax on Sunday, with 44 migrants still missing from that sinking.

Last month EU leaders and the Tunisian government signed what they called a “strategic partnership” deal to clamp down even harder on refugees. The EU commission chief said the bloc would allocate £90 million to Tunisia to stop migrants.

Resqship, a rescue NGO, said that by agreeing to the deal, Tunisia will become “another EU gatekeeper violently preventing people from fleeing”. [eus-border-regime-has-turned-med-into-refugee-graveyard/’ display=’layouts/embedded-article.php’] 

The result is people using riskier means to flee to Europe. Eve Geddie, Amnesty International’s advocacy director in Europe, said “EU leaders are once again embarking on failed policies that are based on callous disregard for basic human rights”. She said they were “focusing their policies and funding on containment and on outsourcing of border control rather than ensuring safe and legal routes”. 

The EU now has nearly 20 external steel walls or razor-wire fences, running to a combined length of nearly 2,000 kilometres. Twenty years ago there were no walls around the EU.

The Mediterranean crossing is one of the most dangerous migrant routes in the world. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), almost 28,000 people have gone missing trying to cross the sea since 2014.

But the poverty, oppression and climate change they are leaving are so harsh that people keep coming. They should be welcomed, not forced to gamble their lives on dangerous sea-crossings.

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