Last developments from the central Med


After 20 days of no arrivals, just in the first week of May, around 1240 people reached the coasts of Lampedusa, with a peak of 17 disembarkments which brought 600 people just on the 5th May. More than half of the people (685) were from countries like Bangladesh, Syria, Pakistan, Egypt and Morocco, while at least ⅓ of people from subsaharan regions (445), and around 100 from Tunisia. Most of them departed from Tunisian coasts (729), and on a less extent from Libya (510).

Most of the people from Libya arrived with fiberglass boats, while those from Tunisia by precarious iron boats. The first days of the week saw the arrival of rubber boats as well from Tunisia.

During the past week, we observed daily transfers of hundreds of people from Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle by ferry, in the attempt to move as fast as possible from one hotspot to another.

On May 5th, two iron boats departed from Tunisia could be located, among many others, by the civil aircraft of Pilotes Volontaire, Colibri2. Once received their position, Maldusa boat sailed in their direction, approximately 30 nautical miles South-West off Lampedusa, to offer support. There were approximately 50 people on board each of the boats; when we reached them, they were adrift. We distributed life jackets and drinking water and remained at their side, until the Italian Coast Guard embarked them and transferred them ashore.

Many people crossing the Mediterranean are daily supported by aerial civil initiatives: observing from the sky and locating boats in distress plays a key role to provide time-critical help and prevent major incidents. The current Italian government has lately imposed an "order" issued by the Civil Aviation technical body, which would like to intimidate their activity, threatening to ground the non-governmental aircrafts flying along the migration routes.

People embarking on dangerous journeys across the Mediterranean can still rely on Alarm Phone, a network of volunteers answering to distress calls around the clock. On Saturday night, a group of people left Libya fleeing towards Lampedusa; they called the hotline half-way when they found themselves adrift. On Sunday night, after providing support to the other two iron boats, we could reach their last known position - but they were not there anymore, they were already onboard an Italian Coast Guard patrol vessel sailing towards Lampedusa. For several hours we've been in contact with the national coordination centers, demanding a prompt intervention; we cannot explain why they could not confirm their involvement and prevent us from sailing for tens of miles towards an empty boat, and at the same time wonder if our presence played any role in stimulating their intervention.

Coordination with the European coastguards and authorities hasn't always been smooth. We've urged their assistance in helping people on board one of the iron boats located by Colibri2, but they've refrained from taking action until confirming that the boat's engine was adrift. It's clear that navigation on iron boats is extremely dangerous, and we firmly believe that potentially life-saving interventions should never be delayed due to technicalities while tens of people are exposed to an escalating danger.

On May 7th, a group of about 60 people could alert Alarm Phone and be reached by the sailing boat Nadir that could provide them support during the night, before embarking on the boats of Italian Coast guard. Two people presented burns and petrol poisoning and had to be transferred from Favaloro pier directly to the local hospital. One body was retrieved and brought to the shores of Lampedusa by the volunteers onboard Nadir.

New testimonies report the abuses of the Tunisian GN that caused a shipwreck and killed several people, including children, on the 5th of April. Whilst many were expelled into the eastern border with Libya into the desert, Italian premier Meloni visited his counterpart Dabaiba in Tripoli and the leader of the Arab National army Haftar.