02 September 2006

August 2006

Migrants continue to die off Mauritania and Lampedusa: 304 victims in the last month, including 127 missing and 13 children. Died also 8 stowaways hidden in trucks, in Germany and in the Uk. An other man died after being expelled from Morocco onto the desert

Trying to reach Canary islands at least 220 people lost their life, including 64 missing, during the month of August . The 30th the last tragedies: 84 bodies recovered along Nouakchott seaside, in Mauritania, after a senegalese boat shipwreck, the week before. Other 50 people are believed to be missing. The increase of the number of victims off Spanish archipelago corresponds to the rise in cayucos arrivals to Canary islands: about 5 thousands people in August, 18,858 since the beginning of 2006, four times the 4,751 arrivals of the whole last year. An augmentation linked with the recent Morocco's frontiers policies. The access to Ceuta and Melilla and to the southern coast of Spain is armoured. So all the departures towards the Spanish Eldorado pass from Dakar and Saint Louis (in Senegal) and therefore from Nouadhibou, the more northern port in Mauritania, in order to reach Canary islands.

To contain arrivals in Spain, the prime minister Zapatero promised to double for the 2007 the 600 millions euro which Madrid spent in 2006 for international cooperation, with a particular attention to the African Countries with the greater number of candidates to the emigration. But the first Spanish objective is to patrol the African shores. The minister of internal affair Alfredo Pérez Rubalcaba has just reopened negotiations with Dakar after the failure of May agreements - which previewed the repatriation of 623 Senegalese citizens disembarked at the Canary islands - and suspended after the first flight, when Senegal accused Spain to have handcuffed its citizens and to have said to them that the flight was directed to Malaga rather than in Senegal. The new agreement underwrite from the Senegalese minister of internal affair Ousmane N Gom previews the shipment to Dakar of a helicopter and two ships of Civil Guard in order to patrol the Senegalese coast. A similar agreement was signed in May with Mauritania (1,200 migrants blocked until now). And also "Hera" is starting working off Canary. "Hera" is the "European agency for the management of operational cooperation at the external borders" (Frontex) mission, with a portuguese warship and an Italian one and a Spanish helicopter: 3,2 millions euro spent for 9 weeks of patroling. Meanwhile, assures the Spanish Red Cross, at least 100,000 people in Senegal are ready to leave.

The Sicily Channel situation, in Italy, was dramatic in August: 84 migrants died between the 19th and the 25th of the month, among them 63 were missing. Among the victims there are also 13 children, included a child 18 months old, died with others two children after their boat lost its route, sailing for 5 days, without water neither food, before to re-enter to Zuwarah, in Libya. What happened has been known only a week later, the 25th of August, when the parents of the baby, both from Sierra Leone, finally arrived in Lampedusa and told everything to the Unhcr officials (United nations high commissioner for refugees). Six days before, the 19th of August, a maneuver of the Italian warship Minerva made a migrants boat capsize after a collision. The bodies of 10 people were recovered, 40 others were missing. Among them also 10 children.

A tragedy that could be avoided and which recalls the 7th of March 2002 ghosts, when off Lampedusa a boat carrying migrants capsized while it came pulled ahead from a sicilian fishing boat. Before the tragedy, the warship Cassiopea arrived on the place, but it refused to trans-ship people aboard. The commander, accused of aid omission, was acquitted saying that the trans-ship was impossible because the sea conditions could have provoked a collision between the crafts. Also on the Minerva's case it has been opened an inquiry, but the first assessments assumes that the wrong maneuver was done by the migrants boat. Meanwhile the warship has come back patroling the Channel's waters.

It is not the first time that similar tragedies happen in Italy. At the end of Nineties, along Puglia coasts, there was different collisions between Financial police draft and the albanian migrants boat, and different were the victims. The worst happened on the 28th of March 1997, when the Sibilla warship rammed the Albanian ship Kater I Rades and made it sank. 58 people died. Recently Sibilla commander has been condemned at 3 years of prison. The Italian State has also paid compensations from 13 to 20 thousands of euro to the victims' relatives.

The Italian Government, after the umpteenth tragedies of August, asked once again more collaboration from Europe and Libya. Actually the great majority of the about 13,000 people disembarked to Lampedusa in the first 8 months of 2006, sailed from Zuwarah, a port close to Tripoli. Frontex decided it will patrol the routes from Libya and send those fleeing Africa back to Tripoli. Malta, Italy, Greece, France and Germany will participate to the operations for a period of 3 weeks. But no date has been established for the plan, expected to meet resistance from Libya.

At least 5,271 people have died since 1988 along the European frontiers, according to Fortress Europe. In the Mediterranean sea - and in the Atlantic ocean between the African coast and Canary islands - 4,092 people drowned, among them 1,747 were missing. More over a March 2006 Spanish Coastguard report assume that 1,200 migrants were missing on the routes between Mauritania and Canary islands in December 2005. A tragedy concentrated particularly on the routes from Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco and Algeria towards Spain (1,272 died including 281 missing); from Libya and Tunisia towards Malta and Italy (1,815 died including 1,088 missing); and from Turkey to the Greece (392 died including 159 missing). Stowaways in the trucks 230 people were found dead. Migrants died also crossing the Sahara (at least 146 victims in the desert) and through Libya. Many witnesses speak of daily abuses and serious violences against migrants in Qaddafi's Country, in jails as in the street. Moreover 34 persons froze to death in their track through the icy mountain's passes, 51 drowned crossing border rivers and 88 were killed over the Evros' minefields, along Turkey-Greece frontier.