Our boating accident attorneys here at LMAW have recently learned of a terrible tragedy in the Mediterranean. According to news reports, a 70-foot boat capsized around midnight Sunday just south of the Italian island of Lampedusa, carrying over 700 migrants who were being smuggled from Libya to Europe. The accident occurred as a large merchant ship approached the small vessel. So far, only 28 victims have been rescued and 24 have been confirmed dead.
According to news reports, several maritime authorities have been called to action to assist in the rescue mission, including the Italian navy and coastguard, the Maltese Navy, and several others. Following the maritime tragedy, the International Organization for Migrants explained that three other migrant vessels sailing in international waters may also be in distress as of the moment. So far, two of the victims who were rescued have been arrested on suspicion of human trafficking after arriving in Sicily.
The International Organization for Migration Already also explained that this year alone, over 35,000 migrants have attempted to cross the Mediterranean in an attempt to flee the turmoil and crisis in their homelands, many of which are migrating from sub-Saharan Africa. And out of the 35,000 migrants, over 900 are believed to have died while trying to seek a better life. Desperate to escape their situation, the migrants are exploited by traffickers organizing the voyages to Europe and charging migrants exorbitant fees.
According to authorities, the recent boat accident occurred after the migrants spotted the merchant vessel, and in an attempt to gain attention from those on board in order to be rescued, the migrants moved to one side of the boat, causing the vessel to capsize and leading hundreds to fall into the water, while others remained inside the ship.
One of the survivors, a Bangladeshi native, told authorities that many victims were trapped inside the vessel as it was sinking because the traffickers allegedly locked the doors to the lower levels of the multi-level boat.
“Gangs of criminals are putting people on a boat, sometimes even at gunpoint,” said Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. “They’re putting them on the road to death, really, and nothing else.”
Sadly, this is just one of several instances of human trafficking on the high seas. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones.