Italian patrol steps up for migrants
After increasing worry of Italian officials caused by the migration of hundreds of African refugees from destabilized regions including Syria, Libya, Egypt and elsewhere, military patrol in the Southern Mediterranean was increased this month in order to prevent shipwrecks that have drowned hundreds this month. Prime Minister Enrico Letta said Saturday “an air and naval package would be in place south of Sicily” where tens of thousands of migrants in overcrowded boats have made “the crossing” from Africa so far this year. Letta also states that they would start on Monday, south of Sicily.
“We intend to triple our presence, in terms of both men and means in the southern Mediterranean, for a military-humanitarian mission that has been made necessary in part by the fact that Libya is currently a ‘non-state,’” Defense Minister Mario Mauro stated to the Avvenire newspaper.
On Friday, 33 refugees perished when their boat was capsized in between islands Malta and Lampedusa, geographically near the coast of Tunisia and Libya.
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Another ship carrying 12 refugees died in another shipwreck off of Lampedusa the same day.
For tens of thousands of refugees seeking to enter European Union countries, Lampedusa has become the aspiring destination, being closest to Africa. Lampedusa has welcomed more than 200,000 refugees and migrants who have passed through the island since 1999.
Migrants that survived Friday’s shipwrecks report to BBC news that one boat was shot at as they left Libya.
One migrant reported that some were shot at on board and that bullet holes “caused the boat to sink” during their departure to Libya.
Some accounts suggested rival trafficking gangs were the cause of these shots, or Libyan militiamen.
Others suggest that the Libyan coast guard may have been to blame for the shooting incident.
Since the ending of Muammar Gaddafi back in 2011, armed militias still hold power in part of Libya. Surprisingly, the flow of African refugees launched from Africa apparently remains uninterrupted regardless of the three deadly shipwrecks, the last killing 358 migrants.
“This year 33,823 migrants have arrived in Italy via boat. This figure already exceeds the number of migrants who arrived by boat in 2012, but is much smaller than the number who arrived in 2011,” reported CNN news.
The majority — 9,322 — of migrants fleeing for asylum-seeking sanctions from civil unrest and violence are Syrians who have arrived in Italy by sea.
“There is something fundamentally inhumane in a world where Syrians are forced to risk their lives in the hands of ruthless smugglers in attempt to reach safety in Europe,” said U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. “They escaped bullets and bombs only to perish before they could ever claim asylum.”
Guterres also called for “an international process” to consider refugees medical assistance, asylum requests and help refugees settle in Europe or elsewhere.