Three children, among a total of 41 refugees, are the latest victims of Europe’s hard borders

Italian Coast Guard rescuing migrants in the Mediterranean sea
Support us and go ad-free

The latest victims of Europe’s hard borders include 41 refugees, three of them children, who have drowned in a shipwreck off Italy’s coast. Politico reported on 9 August that the small boat carrying refugees had set off from Sfax in Tunisia. It capsized and sank near the Italian island of Lampedusa. Only four survivors were rescued by a Maltese cargo ship, after which the Italian Coast Guard brought them to Lampedusa.

A worsening crisis

Recent crossings over the Mediterranean sea from Tunisia in particular have increased due to the political situation within the country, and especially anti-Black racism towards people from sub-Saharan nations.

Maldusa, an Italy-based freedom-of-movement collective, has been documenting the situation. It reported several similar incidents over the last week:

On Sunday, 6 August, rescue operations involving fire brigades and coastguards… rescued 34 people who had been stranded on the rocks of Ponente, Lampedusa, for more than 30 hours…

Meanwhile, between Sfax and Lampedusa, there were three shipwrecks. In the night between 5 and 6 August, a first boat, with 48 people on board, capsized. Only 45 were rescued, at least 3 were missing, according to initial reconstructions. For a second iron boat, with 42 people on board, all of sub-Saharan origin, the balance is even more ominous: only 14 survived, while around 30 are reported missing.

Moreover, also on 6 August, a shipwreck off Tunisia’s Kerkennah Islands resulted in only two rescues, four recovered bodies, and 51 mising people:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

AFP reported that the UN’s migration agency, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), said the migrants’ boat would have been ill-equipped for the kind of bad weather seen in the Central Mediterranean in the past week.

IOM press officer Flavio Di Giacomo said:

Sub-Saharan migrants (leaving from Tunisia) are forced to use these low-cost iron boats which break after 20 or 30 hours of navigation…

With this kind of sea, these boats capsize easily. It is very likely that there are many more shipwrecks than those we know about — that is the real fear.

He also added that traffickers who sent people to sea in such conditions are “more criminal than usual… totally without scruples”.

Hard borders: no place to go

Sadly for those who manage to survive these perilous crossings, the road ahead is still filled with challenges. Maldusa has also reported on the conditions facing people when they arrive at the Lampedusa “hotspot”. They are effectively trapped until authorities transport them to the mainland:

The hotspot remains a de facto closed centre in which it is not possible to leave and which, especially at times of overcrowding, becomes a place and reason for strong tensions between groups and individuals; especially at times when there are more than 2000 people in a centre that should only be able to accommodate 389.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given its asylum-seeker population, the island remains under-resourced and ill-equipped to support those who arrive:

The people disembarking on Lampedusa arrive in serious and alarming health conditions… One wonders whether the hotspot is a suitable place to deal with such situations and what kind of resources there are to deal with cases of trauma and psychological fragility, which are widespread due to the abuse systematically suffered by people on the road. The health resources available between the infirmary in the hotspot and the island’s Outpatient Clinic are often inadequate to respond to requests.

The response

MP and former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn shared his thoughts on Twitter:

Predictably though, on the very same day – and only an hour later – 10 Downing Street tweeted about deals with other countries to “stop the boats”. Right-wing governments and politicians continue to deny the humanity of refugees’ lives:

As one Twitter user summed up:

The human cost of hard borders

This latest tragedy is one among many faced by refugees due to the closed borders of European countries. As Politico reported:

In Brussels, Giorgia Meloni’s far-right Italian government has been pushing to review rules on how the EU welcomes and relocates migrants, asking for more authority to remove rejected asylum seekers.

Last month, the EU finalized a deal with Tunisia — a common departure point for people seeking asylum in Europe — which essentially offers the country millions of euros in exchange for help blocking the boats that have been carrying a growing number of people to Europe.

According to the IOM, almost 2,400 refugees have died or gone missing so far in 2023 while trying to reach European shores via the Mediterranean Sea. Moreover, as the BBC reported:

The United Nations has registered more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean since 2014, making it the most dangerous migrant crossing in the world.

However, the onus is repeatedly placed on refugees to not make these journeys. European nations keep expending resources on stopping small boat crossings. At the same time, they continue to breach international human rights law by closing their borders to refugees and asylum seekers.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

Featured image via Twitter/Angela Caponnetto

Support us and go ad-free

We know everyone is suffering under the Tories - but the Canary is a vital weapon in our fight back, and we need your support

The Canary Workers’ Co-op knows life is hard. The Tories are waging a class war against us we’re all having to fight. But like trade unions and community organising, truly independent working-class media is a vital weapon in our armoury.

The Canary doesn’t have the budget of the corporate media. In fact, our income is over 1,000 times less than the Guardian’s. What we do have is a radical agenda that disrupts power and amplifies marginalised communities. But we can only do this with our readers’ support.

So please, help us continue to spread messages of resistance and hope. Even the smallest donation would mean the world to us.

Support us
  • Show Comments
    1. Our PM states “To combat illegal migration, we need international collaboration.” Which means that the UK should rejoin the liberals’ beloved European Union so that Brits can expand our efforts to kill more poor non-Brits. There’s an imperialist death party going on in the Med, and we’re not invited. Surely The Sun, The Times and the Mail ought to be clamouring for the UK to get back into the EU if only for the fun of seeing even more desperate migrating children drown. Perhaps it’s just that the EU has ‘union’ in its name that puts off the right-wingers; if it were renamed more accurately the European Capitalist Corporation, that might sway them.

    Leave a Reply

    Join the conversation

    Please read our comment moderation policy here.