The massacre continues: 459 deaths in the first 6 months of 2009
ROME, 2 July 2009 – The number of deaths at the border fell for the first time over the last three years. In the first semester of 2009, the victims reported by the international press along the routes of emigration in the Mediterranean have been 434, to which the 25 people who disappeared along land borders must be added, including the three boys who ended up under lorries in the Italian Adriatic harbours. Last year, over the same period, there had been 985 documented deaths. The figures –based on news from the international press- were divulged by the Fortress Europe observatory. The main reason for the decrease in shipwrecks is the objective decrease in the number of arrivals, particularly in Italy and Spain. Since the start of returns to Libya on 7 May, arrivals by boat in Sicily can be counted on one hand. And in the Canary islands in Spain, there has not been any arrival by boat in the months of April and May, and very few boats arrived in the archipelago in June. This is an effect of the returns in the high seas and joint patrol operations enacted by Frontex in Senegal and Mauritania. However, it is still too early to compare data. In fact, very little news arrives from the press in countries to the south of the Mediterranean on this issue. For this reason, it cannot stated with any certainty whether the deaths have decreased or whether the shipwrecks occur further away from the gaze of our cameras, off the Libyan coast or in the high seas.
In detail, according to the data collected from the international press by Fortress Europe, there were 339 victims along the route towards Malta and Lampedusa in the first semester of 2008 (compared with 650 in the same period of 2008), 87 off the Spanish coast (compared with 136 in 2008) and 8 in the Aegean Sea (compared with 199 in 2008), between Turkey and Greece. There is only news of one victim on the way between Algeria and Sardinia. A corpse that was fished out of the water near to the Cavoli island in the Cagliari region, whose origin may lie in a shipwreck about which there are no available details. Other three emigrants, most probably Afghan refugees, lost their lives under lorries that disembarked in the Italian Adriatic harbours after the crossing from Greece. In Egypt, three refugees were killed after being shot by the Egyptian police at the border with Israel. Two people died in Ceuta, the Spanish enclave in Morocco, as they tried to climb over the six-metre barrier that seals that border. There were also two victims in Calais, in France, where the harbour and Channel Tunnel represent an obligatory passage to enter England illegally. Finally, there were supposedly at least 14 victims of the crossing of the Sahara during the first half of the year, according to the very few pieces of information arriving from Saharan countries.
June has also been a month in which deaths were counted: 29 in the Gibraltar Strait, off the Spanish coasts; 3 in Egypt, shot by the police at the Israeli border; and one in Italy, who was called Amir Rohol, was 19 years old and an Afghan asylum seeker. He died after falling off an articulated lorry that had disembarked in Ancona, along the junction between Clearway 76 and the A14 motorway.
Many are likely to use this data to justify the returns to Libya. Joseph St. John, an official from the Maltese interior ministry also stated this during a seminar in which I took part on 17 June in Malta. Refuse entry to save human lives. From the audience, an Ethiopian woman refugee raised her hand to intervene. “Excuse me, Mr. Minister – she said – what difference is there between dying at sea and dying in Libya?”. I don’t feel that there is much more to add about this.