Article first published on February 24, 2021
During the last couple of days an increase in departures from Libya and Tunisia has been recorded. Some people have arrived in Lampedusa and on the Sicilian coasts, others have been intercepted and handed over to the Libyans, still others have died at sea.
Meanwhile – as a side effect of the departures – we have received various calls for help carried out by family members of those in distress at sea. The same calls for help that have been reaching us for years and that are always coined by despair about the absence of messages from beloved persons once a distress call is transmitted.
Massacres which do not grab headlines anymore
Only few media still report on shipwrecked people at sea – those who still do, with ever decreasing extent. Hardly anyone reports on the ongoing massacres in the Mediterranean rooting in the ‚migration management’ of an Europe which is solely concerned with sealing off its own borders.
Additionally, there is an absolute silence on some of the news. So, a shipwreck that occurred last weekend near Pantelleria which left at least four people missing. Family members tell us about a departure from the Tunisian coasts. Only one man who endured in the waters close to the coast of Pantelleria for twelve hours straight, has reached Sicily alive. Although this information has not yet been confirmed by authorities, he is now said to be in a hospital in Trapani, still in a state of shock.
“What happened to my nephews?”, an aunt asks us anxiously on the phone and we, in turn, ask ourselves: why this silence? The names of the four boys who are painfully almost certainly dead, are Adel, Jasme, Ayoub and Mamoune.
Abuses and human rights violations abord quarantine ships
Last days’ other calls of distress originate from contacts with the Tunisians detained abord the ship Allegra moored in Porto Empedocle. Via telephone calls with relatives, we have been informed about the escape attempts and protests on board as well as the following intervention of authorities.
A young woman who was in touch with her Tunisian boyfriend abord, heard him crying and pleading for help after he had swallowed a razor blade out of desperation.
According to some young men on board, the situation finally escalated after four or five Tunisians escaped the ship on Monday evening. As a consequence, the police took strongly repressive measures against Tunisian people onboard. Another attempt of escape was prevented by the police on Tuesday evening resulting in self-inflicted injuries. The young men’s demands are clear: “We had been on Lampedusa for three days before they put us on this ship. We have been here for ten days now and ask for explanations, but nobody gives us an answer. No one’s telling us how long we’re going to be here. Nobody tells us whether they have to take us back to Tunisia – nothing absolutely nothing.”
In Porto Empedocle, too, there have been inconveniences during the last week: people, including women and children who had gone ashore with dripping clothes, were forced to stay in tents in the port for more than ten hours. It was not until late at night that they were taken to mixed Covid-19 centers. This situation is especially dramatic for minors. Those who arrive are usually children of tender age who become younger and lonelier with time.
It is a horror without end on which we continue to act unprepared. We leave the situation to the goodwill of the respective officer on duty.
The government changes but there is no progress in terms of protecting migrants’ rights. Not even the shipwrecked seem to be worth a press release.
Translated by Marah Frech