20 feared dead at sea off Malta’s coast
87 refugees and migrants were rescued at sea by Maltese authorities in the morning of 22nd January, as they were drifting on an overcrowded dinghy off Malta’s coast. According to statements by the Maltese Prime Minister, survivors described how 20 fellow travellers died during the journey and were thrown overboard.
The survivors, apparently nationals of West African countries, were brought to safety to Malta. One died soon after the rescue and others are in critical conditions, probably for having drunk sea water.
“The death toll at sea keeps rising. The record of 3,500 deaths in 2014 may well be toppled in 2015 if European countries do not take immediate steps to assist refugees and migrants trying to reach safety in Europe” said a speaker of Amnesty International.
Although a full picture of the tragedy is not yet available, it would appear that the vessel drifted at sea for days after departing from Libya with many people dying before rescue reached them.
Amnesty International: “We will never know if these people could have been reached much earlier had Mare Nostrum still be in place. But what we do know is that those who wanted the end of Mare Nostrum, regarding it as a pull factor for migrants, are being proven wrong.” “Refugees and migrants have continued to leave by sea on unseaworthy vessels throughout the winter, notwithstanding that Mare Nostrum was closed down on 31 October 2014. How many more deaths does Europe need to be persuaded that these people deserve help?”
Amnesty International continues to call for European countries to join forces and ensure that there are adequate search and rescue resources at sea with trained personnel deployed along the routes taken by fleeing refugees and migrants.