Fortress Europe documents 316 deaths in March 2009

MODICA, 2 April 2009 - There have been at least 316 victims of emigration along the European borders in the month of March. This figure is based on news reported by the press, and is still not certain, as news concerning the latest slaughter in Libya is still contradictory. While Reuters cites Libyan sources that speak of 100 corpses recovered and 245 people who have disappeared at sea, the IOM mission in Tripoli talks of 20 deaths and 210 missing. Beyond the figures, it is nonetheless one of the most serious tragedies ever along the routes of emigration, on a similar scale to the shipwreck in Portopalo, which cost 283 people their lives in 1996. According to data from Fortress Europe, since 1994 there have been at least 3,163 migrants and refugees who have lost their lives along the route to Lampedusa and the Sicilian coasts. It also remains to be ascertained what the responsibilities of the Libyan coastguard are, which notoriously lacks sufficient means to guarantee prompt rescue operations at sea, so much so that many of the rescue missions in Libyan waters are often run by Italian units, according to claims by the operative room of the [Italian] coastguard. Already a week before the Janzur shipwreck, the Channel of Sicily had harvested 67 victims, on a boat that sank in the high seas off the island of Kerkennah, near Sfax in Tunisia, on the route towards Lampedusa. In that case, the Tunisian authorities recovered 17 corpses and left another 50 people missing, according to testimonies collected from the 33 survivors who were rescued.

Always in Italy, in the month of March there were two deaths in the Adriatic ports. On 29 March, an Iraqi was found dead in Ancona, crushed by the axles of the articulated lorry under which he had hidden in the port of Patras in Greece in order to board a ferry travelling to Italy. And the Hellenic Master ferry also came from Greece, arriving in Venice harbour on 26 March. The lifeless body of a political asylum seeker squashed by a bale of paper for pulping was found in the semi-trailer of one of the lorries on board.

Finally, news reports detail three deaths in the Strait of Gibraltar, whereas in Ceuta -the Spanish enclave in Morocco- people die again. It happened on the night of 7 March. An atrocious death. A young sub-Saharan was caught on the double six-metre-high fence that seals off the Spanish city's border. Like that, dangling, he bled to death due to the injuries he suffered while climbing it. When assistance arrived, it was already too late. Lastly, news arrives from Algeria -released by the Nigerian embassy in Algiers- concerning 14 migrants who died of de-hydration in the desert while they crossed the Sahara desert.

Fortress Europe, March 2009 round-up
Fortress Europe homepage

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