According to the Guardian newspaper, Italian police have arrested two suspected people traffickers among the survivors of the migrant boat that capsized off the coast of Libya on Sunday, as the United Nations said it believed that at least 800 people died in the sinking – the worst such incident ever in the Mediterranean.
Prosecutors said they had detained 27-year-old Tunisian Mohammed Ali Malek, believed to be the captain of the vessel, and Syrian national Mahmud Bikhit, 25. The two were taken from a group of 27 haggard survivors who arrived in the Sicilian port of Catania on Monday evening. The two were charged with people trafficking and the captain was also charged with reckless multiple homicide in relation to the sinking.
Survivors had earlier told investigators that they believed the vessel capsized after a collision with the King Jacob. Some told the Ansa news agency that the captain of the migrant boat was carelessly steering the vessel – and therefore could have rammed into the cargo ship – in order to avoid being identified later as the captain.
The King Jacob has been involved in four other rescue operations, according to Italian press reports. Commercial ships have played an important role in rescue operations, responding both to the calls of migrant ships that are in distress and requests for help from the Italian coastguard and navy. Aid agencies say such commercial vessels have become invaluable partners to Italian officials in cases when they are closer to distressed boats than the Italian rescue boats are. According to the IOM, commercial ships helped rescue 40,000 people last year, even though aid agencies and others have said the vessels are not really equipped to handle such sensitive rescues.
EU leaders are due to hold an emergency summit on ways to stem the number of migrants risking the perilous journey across from African to the Mediterranean. The draft proposals include a push for a military mandate to destroy boats used by people traffickers. As reported earlier, more than 800 people drowned off the coast of Libya on Sunday, and this year alone the Mediterranean sea has claimed more than 1750 lives.
Italian PM Matteo Renzi has described people smugglers as the slave traders of the 21st Century and he called for direct action against people smugglers. A draft statement for Thursday’s meeting in Brussels, says leaders will commit to “undertake systematic efforts to identify, capture and destroy vessels before they are used by traffickers”.
According to UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres a co-ordinated response was needed to save lives.
He said, our ability to save lives at sea has to be guaranteed, because the current situation is a tremendous tragedy, and today we know that the fact that there is no effective rescue operation in place, has not reduced but rather increased the number of people who try to cross the Mediterranean. He added, there are people traffickers. And we have to take a very tough line with these people who violate human rights.
Due to the rise in the number of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa in recent months, has led to huge numbers of people trying to reach Europe in unseaworthy and often overcrowded vessels.
The International Organisation for Migration says there have been 30 times as many deaths so far in 2015 as in the same period last year and the figure could rise to 30,000. More than 500 people rescued from several other boats were brought ashore by Italian coastguards on Wednesday.
Last month, the Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini made a public statement in which he compared “foreigners” in South Africa to lice and advised them to pack and return to where they came from. Although many South Africans were shocked and disgusted and compared the King’s speech to that of the speeches made during the Rwandan genocide in which Tutsis were referred to as cockroaches, however, the South African government has taken no action against Goodwill. Had that speech by the so called king made by an ordinary man, by now the person would have been charged for hate speech.
South Africa’s Equality Act allows for prosecution in cases of hate speech and incitement to violence, while Article 3 of the UN convention against Genocide also makes provisions for “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”.
It is rather disappointing that the South African president Jacob Zuma himself could described this barbaric act as just criminality. This goes to show how easily we forget our past. It was 27th of April 1994 when ANC wins first non-racial elections, which paved the way for Nelson Mandela to be president of South Africa. This was made possible mainly because of the collective efforts of Africans and today this barbaric and savagery act against the same people who fought for your freedom is what South African got to pay them. It is rather sad we still have such leadership in our continent, by now, South Africa should be suspended from that use for nothing union AU, however, because they just don’t care. Only rhetoric or unilateral actions would not solve the problem they must call an emergency meeting and make sure South Africa pay for the state sponsored genocide of foreigner.
After brutally Killing over 20 people and displacing more than 5000 people, Zuma thought it’s enough now so he called in the army to curb the savagery, but the problem is he and his government are responsible for what is happening. These people who are killing and ransacking foreign properties and businesses are encouraged by the leadership because in the heat of the moment if a president could stand and say those who are legally here should be treated like brothers, so how about those illegal migrants, are they not human? Of course they are.
During the apartheid even the tiniest country in the African continent, such as Gambia did lodged cared for them and some of them are still there. But because they have a short lived memory they have forgotten their past. No wonder they are barbaric.
The European Union has set out a package of measures to try to ease the migrant boat crisis in the Mediterranean while African leaders continue to watch their citizens perished in the Mediterranean sea. Its Triton patrolling service will be strengthened and a military mandate sought to destroy people-smugglers’ boats and EU leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday to further discuss these human tragedies.
The crisis worsened at the weekend when more than 700 hundred people were feared drowned as a boat capsized off the coast of Libya and this evening a boat capsized just at the coast of Sicily.
According to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, the 10 points package sets out at talks in Luxembourg was a strong reaction from the EU to the tragedies and shows a new sense of urgency and political will. Ms Mogherini also said the EU are developing a truly European sense of solidarity in fighting human trafficking – finally so.
The measures the EU planned to implement include an increase in the financial resources of Frontex, which runs the EU’s Mediterranean rescue service Triton, and an extension of Triton’s operational area. Also EU Joint processing of asylum applications – within two months of their being lodged, fingerprinting and recording of all migrants, an EU pilot project on migrant resettlement which would be voluntary, offer of return travel packages, immigration liaison officers in key countries. The civilian and military operation to destroy the people-smugglers’ boats would need a mandate signed off by the European Council. The EU had been criticised over the scope of Triton, which replaced the larger Italian operation Mare Nostrum at the end of last year, however, the EU is ready to do something about this tragedy. Ms Mogherini also stressed the need for action on Libya, where there was no state entity to control borders.
EU ministers have argued differently, some said the sea patrols should be expanded again and funding should also be increased, however, other ministers suggested that migrant camps could be set up in North Africa to allow migrants to apply for asylum before crossing the Mediterranean sea. The Thursday’s EU emergency meeting is a very important meeting as it has been described as a matter of life and death.
According to the Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi Sunday’s tragedy of 700 drowning was a game changer and he said military intervention in the Libyan civil war was not on the agenda, but they planned to target the people smugglers and he also said history will very badly judge Europe if they fail to act and put a stop to this humanitarian crisis.
According to the UN says the route from North Africa to Italy and Malta has become the world’s deadliest and they estimated that up to 1,500 people are now feared to have drowned in 2015 alone
Save the Children accused EU foreign ministers of “dithering as children drown”, criticising them for not introducing more search and rescue operations sooner.
The aid agencies are now in direct confrontation with countries like Britain, which has opposed increased levels of search and rescue missions. Last year, the UK government objected to further EU funding for Operation Mare Nostrum, the pro-active, Italian-led search and rescue mission, on the basis that it acted as a “pull factor” for more people trafficking.
Meanwhile, despite the latest tragedies, the UK government made it clear that it did not still support calls for increased search and rescue mission as they described them as “just one part” of the solution. British officials also refused to support a German suggestion that EU nations should provide specific quotas for migrants fleeing chaos in Syria and elsewhere. However, the loss of life in recent days combined with the near-inevitability of similar tragedies in coming weeks and months may make it hard for the British Prime Minister David Cameron to maintain his stance. More than 10,000 migrants have arrived in Italy in less than a fortnight, and as of last night, there were reported to be six separate ongoing operations to save a further 1,500 people on boats in the Mediterranean, according to UN sources.
While all these things happened, African leaders sit by quietly and continue to repress and force their people to these dangerous journeys. It is very shameful for African leaders to sit by and watch their own citizens dying in such tragic circumstances and do nothing about it. The African Union should be scrapped since it is only there to benefit the leaders themselves, because the money it take to run that useless organisation could have been better put in deterring programmes such as education and health. The majority of African countries gained their independence over 50 years ago, however, it seems the colonial days were even much better than now and such example can be found in South Africa, where black people are killing their fellow blacks due to the failing of their leadership. It’s disheartening watching news programmes and on daily basis, you see nothing but people, especially Africans dying in the seas or are ravaged by war or diseases and yet still their leaders are less concern.