Five African boat people rescued by the Italian coastguard have claimed they were lost at sea for three weeks, ignored by passing ships, and that 75 other people died during their ordeal.
The survivors, two men, a woman and two children, are from Eritrea. They had set off for Europe from Libya at the end of last month aboard a 12-metre rubber boat. Twenty days into the voyage they ran out of fuel and drifted helplessly until they were spotted off the Italian island of Lampedusa. “Any ships who sailed past these boat people without helping them have broken the international rule of the sea,” said Laura Boldrini from the UNHCR. “Maybe they were afraid of what might happen, or perhaps they were simply indifferent.” The five are lucky to have survived, although they face an uncertain future. Reaching Lampedusa is no guarantee of an entry ticket to Europe, and Rome and Tripoli recently signed an agreement to return would-be migrants to Libya.