“It is evening, when we start to see the lights of the boats which gradually approach the port of Augusta, Sicily.” Fabrizio, one of our Sicily Support Team psychologists, explains that “the Clipper Hebe, a big commercial boat which flies the Norwegian flag, is transporting 221 migrants, among them 80 non-accompanied minors, 20 women, and the dead body of a migrant around 35 years old, who died during the crossing.
These are Egyptians, Sudanese, Eritreans, Palestinians, and so forth. The dinghy they were travelling in was shipwrecked 70 miles south of Crete; during its recovery, because of bad meteorological conditions and the difficulty of the rescue, about half of the 600 people on board were left inside the vessel as it sank.”
One of the first migrants to come to our Polibus, a roving medical clinic, is O., a young Sudanese man around 30 years old. He is stunned and confused. When we clarify to him that we are in Italy, he lights up, and the exhaustion and heaviness seem suddenly to slide ?away. Then, his expression changes and he breaks out into tears, showing us a bruise on his arm. “Look, there was this woman, who was drowning, and who was grasping onto me. It was terrible that I could not do anything for her. She drowned in front of my eyes. It was terrible. There were more than 600 of us on the ship. While they were saving us, the boat started to take on water, and then it broke up. Everyone still on board fell into the sea.”
He cries, remembering the confusion, the shouting, and the view of dead bodies bobbing in water. “You cannot imagine,” he says, “you cannot imagine what happened. Now I am here, but I am very confused. What happened is an unthinkable thing. I don’t even know now if I imagined it, dreamt it, or it is all real.”
Since the beginning of the year, more than 3,500 people have died crossing the Mediterranean.
October 3, the Italian National Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Immigration, aims to recall those who have lost their lives during the journey this year. However, making a specific yearly date to memorialize the death of people, without political action to prevent more deaths, risks being just the creation of an empty anniversary.
In order to avoid more deaths, we call on Europe to open SAFE AND LEGAL CHANNELS OF ACCESS TO THOSE FLEEING WAR AND POVERTY.