“Two countries waited for the sea to swallow them whole” – Mediterranea

Nello Scavo, a journalist for the authoritative national Catholic Italian newspaper ‘L’Avvenire’  accused Malta of lying about the assistance given by Malta to the migrants over the past few days. Scavo said that “It seems that Malta even lied to the Italian Authorities. Libya refuses to let the migrants back ashore”. Scavo also accused to Italian Authorities of not knowing what was really happening while saying that everything was under control. The report by Scavo came as the International Migrants Organisation, the NGO Mediterranea and the SOS network Alarm Phone all reported the arrival of a boat with 47 persons and 5 corpses off the coast of Libya.

Scavo is no rookie. An international reporter of calibre, Scavo’s investigative stories have been published on international newspapers such as The New York Times,  The Washington Post, The Independent, The Guardian, Le Monde, Huffington Post, La Croix, Bbc, Cnn, Clarin, La Nacion, El Pais, El Mundo and others.

The arrival of the 47 souls off the Libyan coast was first notified by the IMO. Sources contacted by Newsbook.com.mt who is following the story closely said that while this arrival is a fact, they cannot confirm or otherwise if these were the migrants who had been abandoned by the cargo ship IVAN due to bad weather. No news either of the other boat with 85 souls, for which no communication has been received since Sunday. Sources have intimated to Newsbook.com.mt that these persons are feared dead.

Scavo wrote that a total of 12 persons are known for certain to have died so far. The 47 survivors were found adrift on a dinghy in Maltese Search and Rescue zone and were picked up by a fishing boat and are still awaiting permission to go ashore in Libya. L’Avvenire described this saga as ‘La  strage di Pasquetta’ (The tragedy of Pasquetta, as the Tuesday after Easter is called). Onboard the dinghy there were 5 corpses but the survivors spoke of another 7 dead, bringing the total to 12. Scavo reported that the IMO sent representatives to the port of Tripoli for a debrief on this human cargo which has been without food or water for the past six days. These people were adrift in heavy seas with waves up to a storey in height.

Malta accused of Lying

L’Avvenire reported that Wednesday morning, a high-level source in the Maltese diplomatic corps said that “there are no migrants and there are no persons lost at sea”, adding however that there was no information where the 55 persons still considered missing by the international institutions, were. Scavo calls this declaration a ‘menzogna’, a lie, which, he says has irked considerably international organisations who, for days had been seeking information without ever getting back any answer. Scavo quotes Carlotta Sami, spokesperson for UNHCR who queried if these were the migrants who had been in the sea for days. Sami added that the delays in affording assistance to these souls had been unacceptable and that no one can be taken back to Libya once they had entered international waters.

The IMO message was starkly un-detailed: The migrants had been saved by a commercial vessel in the Maltese S&R zone and handed over to the Libyan Coastguard. IMO reiterated its position that “…according to international agreements, persons who have been rescued at sea can not be taken to unsafe ports. An alternative to disembarkation in Libya is urgently required”.

Italians on patrol

L’Avvenire wrote that the silence of the Maltese Authorities obliged the Italian coastguard to patrol the strait between Malta and Sicily both from the sea and from the air, scanning for the signs of a shipwreck. It further said that The migrants’ position had already been communicated by the Maltese authorities to the Libyan coastguard while failing to inform the Italian coastguard of this initiative. As a result, the Italian coastguard had to patrol the strait for nothing through the deep night.

“We want to know the truth about the 55 lost souls. It is just not right that men, women and children cry for help to two countries who do nothing and simply wait for the sea to swallow them whole,” said Alessandra Sicurba, president of Mediterranea Saving Humans. She added that even if it turns out that the souls which are currently off the Libyan coast are the same who had been abandoned, the seriousness of the accusations would not be mitigated one iota.

Under Control

L’Avvenire reported that the Italian Minister for infrastructure, Paola de Micheli had said in the past days that the situation in the central Mediterranean is ‘under control’ and that the authorities are on top of the situation. Scavo wrote that this is in complete contrast to the fact that when the migrants were found, 5 were dead of exposure, lives which could have been saved if all the maritime authorities had acted in a timely manner.