George Ebai, Immigration Officer for Rome based organization African Movement has said there must be an urgent multi sectorial method to stop the thousands of African migrants still making the perilous boat journey from Northern African to Lampedusa in South Italy. He made the declaration to Iroko Africa following the tragic death of about 300 African migrants near the shores of Lampedusa yesterday Thursday October 4 2013 after the engine of their fishing boat stopped working and the boat caught fire.
Mr Ebai said African leaders need to improve their economies to stop youths from leaving for Europe, European countries needed to offer a legal route for some of the migrants and more effort needed to be made to punish the human traffickers fuelling the trade.
On why most of yesterday’s victims were from war torn Somalia and Eritrea, Mr Ebai said “most of the youths have genuine fears of being forcefully recruited into Al-Shabaab and thinking escaping to Europe is the best way out”.
Italy is today observing a national day of mourning following the tragedy, the worst in living memory.
Italian coastguards have already rescued 155 migrants while more than 300 are now missing, presumed death. Some of the survivors say there were up to 500 migrants in the fishing boat. Among the survivors are 40 young boys who no longer have parents after they died. A UNHCR official said the fishing boat came from Libya and had been in the high seas for 13 days. The engine of the boat developed problems less than 1 km to the shores of Lampedusa. After its engine failed, one of the migrants set a small fire to attract attention of passing ships to their plight. The fire quickly went out of control and the ship easily sunk at that point.
Pope Francis described the tragedy as “shameful” and called for a quick and urgent solution to the multiple problems that were forcing thousands of mostly African migrants to undertake the perilous journey.
Italy’s Integration Minister Cécile Kyenge today said Italy alone could not handle the flow of refugees and needed more help from the EU.
While Italian coast guards were busy recovering death bodies of some of the migrants, two boats arrived carrying more than 300 other mostly African migrants. Reports say one boat full of migrants arrived today Friday October 5 2013. Boats arrive on the small Italian Island almost on a daily basis.
Mr Ebai from the African Movement told Iroko Africa Europe also needed to look for the necessary finances to stop the boats from taking off in the first place while North African authorities needed to do more to punish the people traffickers. Some migrants pay up to $2000 each to get into the boats that are usually not sea worthy. Thousands of West and central African migrants trek through the Sahara desert for months on end to get to Northern African countries from where they need to pay people smugglers to attempt the journey on the high seas to Europe. In Italy, some of the migrants are given temporal papers but most eventually move to other European countries to try and work to pay back some of the money they borrowed to travel abroad