24. April 2016 · Kommentare deaktiviert für Schiffskatastrophe: „Lack of information and delay in interviewing survivors“ · Kategorien: Ägypten, Alarm Phone, Griechenland, Italien, Libyen · Tags: ,

Quelle: ABC

Europe migrant crisis: Mediterranean capsize death toll causes confusion among aid agencies

By Anne Barker

A lack of information and a delay in interviewing survivors appear to have caused initial scepticism about the latest mass drowning of refugees in the Mediterranean.

Key points:

  • Exact death toll still unknown
  • Refugees fleeing Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, bound for Italy
  • Aid agencies took days to confirm incident, after interviewing survivors
  • UNHCR says incident „one of the worst tragedies in past 12 months“

Reports of the tragedy first surfaced on Monday.

BBC Arabic quoted the Somali ambassador to Egypt, who in an interview claimed 400 people had died crossing the Mediterranean to Italy.

The report said the refugees were fleeing Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea in four boats which were ill-equipped for the journey. But information beyond that was scant.

Neither the Italian nor Greek coastguards knew anything about the reported disaster. The Hellenic Coast Guard in Greece denied the reports outright.

„There was no such incident off Greece. I think the information is incorrect, whatever the case, this did not happen in Greek waters and nobody was rescued off a vessel with 400 to 500 people on board,“ a coastguard spokeswoman said.

Aid agencies too were unable to confirm the incident. Medecins Sans Frontieres initially responded to the news with a tweet, which read: „2016, the Mediterranean is a mass grave,“ but the agency was unable to substantiate the reports.

The United Nations‘ refugee agency quickly dismissed the reports as inaccurate.

„Information on boat disaster killing 400+ refugees at Mediterranean appears inaccurate,“ UNHCR said on Twitter.

Even after the refugees arrived in Greece it took days for the story to be confirmed.

Many of the 41 survivors spoke little or no English. They had drifted for three days they said, meaning by the time a Philippines cargo ship rescued them, the shipwreck and many of the bodies of those who had drowned were long gone.

Only days later was the UN High Commission for Refugees able to confirm the tragedy, after interviewing survivors.

Drowning numbers may remain a mystery

The UNHCR said it could be „one of the worst tragedies involving refugees and migrants in the past 12 months“, but it may never be known exactly how many migrants drowned.

„If confirmed, as many as 500 people may have lost their lives when a large ship went down in the Mediterranean Sea at an unknown location between Libya and Italy,“ the UNHCR said in a statement.

„The 41 survivors [37 men, three women and a three-year-old child] were rescued by a merchant ship and taken to Kalamata, in the Peloponnese peninsular of Greece on April 16.

„Those rescued include 23 Somalis, 11 Ethiopians, six Egyptians and a Sudanese.

„The survivors told us that they had been part of a group of between 100 and 200 people who departed last week from a locality near Tobruk in Libya on a 30-metre-long boat.“

After sailing for several hours, the smugglers in charge of the boat attempted to transfer the passengers to a larger ship carrying hundreds of people in terribly overcrowded conditions.

At one point during the transfer, the larger boat capsized and sank.

„The 41 survivors include people who had not yet boarded the larger vessel, as well as some who managed to swim back to the smaller boat. They drifted at sea possibly for three days before being spotted and rescued,“ the UNHCR said.

The BBC later reported the 41 Africans had been released, but they had no idea where they would go. Many said they were still determined to make it to Italy.

175,000 refugees reach Italy

The UNHCR visited the survivors at the local stadium of Kalamata where they were temporarily housed by the local authorities.

The refugee agency said about 175,000 refugees had reached Italy since January 2015 from North Africa, with most leaving ports in Libya.

„In recent weeks, we have seen the number of people crossing from Libya into Italy increase dramatically and we fear that this is the beginning of the good season,“ UNHCR spokesman William Spindler said.

„The weather is getting better in the Mediterranean and more people will attempt to cross.“

European authorities now fear a migrant crisis developing in Italy similar to what has happened in Greece.

Although the number of migrants arriving in Greece has fallen sharply since an agreement to send migrants back to Turkey if they are found not to be genuine refugees.

„We have seen a significant reduction in the numbers,“ NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said.

„But I think it’s important not to end this activity too early because we still see that the smugglers are trying to get people over the Aegean Sea and also we have to be prepared that if we leave then we can see a return of the high numbers of people trying to cross the Aegean Sea in an illegal and dangerous way.

„So we have to stay there as long as needed, we do this in very close cooperation with Turkey and Greece and the European Union border agency Frontex.“

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