Italians on Lampedusa have marked the first official remembrance day for migrants, three years after a shipwreck half a mile from shore claimed the lives of more than 360 people seeking safety in Europe. Reports suggest 368 died, although a total of 386 people are said to be missing following the disaster.
More than 500 people were aboard the overcrowded wooden boat when it caught fire and capsized within sight of the Italian island, which lies halfway between Libya and Sicily. The incident sparked the creation of search and rescue missions such as Mare Nostrum and a later collaboration between Italy and the European Union.
‘Indifference is killing people’
Dr Francesco Rocca, the President of the Italian Red Cross, said the organisation’s volunteers were on the island on October 3, 2013, “supporting the survivors who were haunted by the horror they had witnessed.”
“Three years later and people continue to die in their thousands – nothing has changed. Indifference is killing people.”
Italy’s Interior Minister Angelino Alfano called on Europe to wake up and prove its juridical and political worth.
“Today we do not just remember the mourning for the 368 people who died three years ago, but we say as well that this is a call, maybe the last one for Europe, if it wants to be the great juridical and political continent it longs to be and has always been,” he said from Lampedusa.
“This call means: dear Europe wake up, because when you make commitments [to relocate migrants] to a great country like Italy and then you do not honour them, the consequence is unreliability. And that is not a good sign going forward. We honoured all our commitments.”
According to the International Organisation for Migration, some 132,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since January, 2016. In the same time period, 3,054 have died making the journey.
On Monday (October 3) alone, 5,650 people were rescued trying to reach Europe by sea, Italy’s Coast Guard reported. At least nine people died, a spokeswoman confirmed, and a pregnant woman was flown by helicopter to a hospital on Lampedusa.
The UN Refugee Agency puts the number of displaced worldwide at over 65 million, or one in every 113 people on earth.