NAround 40 people are missing after a refugee boat capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa. The shipwreck happened on Thursday and among the missing is at least one newborn, as Chiara Cardoletti from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) announced on Saturday. According to the UN Migration Agency (IOM), the boat left Sfax in Tunisia and was carrying 46 refugees from Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.
The boat capsized in strong winds and high waves, some survivors were taken to Lampedusa, others back to Tunisia, IOM spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo said on Friday. “Among the missing are seven women and a child. All survivors are adult males,” he added.
Since November, more sub-Saharan Africans have come to Europe via the Tunisia route than Tunisians, Di Giacomo said. This is also due to the discrimination against people from southern Africa in Tunisia.
Joint rescue mechanism required
“It is unacceptable to continue counting the dead at the gates of Europe,” Cardoletti wrote on Twitter, referring to the numerous fatal accidents involving migrant boats off Italy, Spain and Greece in recent years. “A coordinated joint rescue mechanism of the states (…) is now also a question of conscience,” she added.
The island of Lampedusa, located about 145 kilometers off the Tunisian coast in the Mediterranean Sea, is one of the most important gateways to Europe for refugees. According to the UNHCR, more than 46,000 migrants arrived there last year, and 105,000 arrivals were registered throughout Italy.
This year alone, the UN refugee agency has already counted more than 1,208 dead and missing on the escape routes across the Mediterranean. Just last week, an overloaded fishing boat coming from Libya sank off the Greek coast. 82 dead could be recovered, 104 people were saved. According to survivors, hundreds of people are said to have been on board.