This, just happened. More dead migrants had fallen from a boat off the south coast of Sicily, adding to the death toll. As BBC reports, the weekend saw more than 5,800 migrants rescued and 10 bodies found off the Libyan coast.
I’m sure you remember a few weekends ago when a boat sunk on its way to Italy. I’m sure you remember that an estimated 700 people drowned at sea, even though some survivors believe there were approximately 950 on the boat.
I’m not sure about you, but I was confused about what was happening, exactly. Where were these people coming from? Why were these boats sinking? And, what was driving these people to take a chance at such a perilous journey?
Let’s bring it back, way back, to 1969, when the infamous Muammar al-Qaddafi, a.k.a. Gaddafi, took over Libya during the revolution. It was a militaristic coup d’etat to oust King Idris, who was buddy-buddy with the U.S. and Great Britain, much to the people’s dismay. Whilst King Idris was away in Turkey getting medical aid, al-Qaddafi jumped in and claimed a republic.
During the 1970s, his rule got real. He wrote The Green Book, dissolved the republic and created a “state of the masses”. He was also (allegedly) responsible for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing. Gaddafi praised pan-Africanism and pan-Arabism, believing that the people could unite as one (quite probably against the big, bad West).
Break out civil war.
Gaddafi was notorious for human rights violations during his dictatorship. In 2011, his rule was met with the Arab Spring. The anti-Qaddafists movement, led by the National Transitional Council (NTC) and supported by NATO, pushed the dictator out.
Gaddafi tried to retreat to Sirte, but was captured and killed by the NTC. Since then, Libya has been ruled by militias with no proper order. Today, times are tough and the people are fed up, willing to pay their families’ life savings for a shady boat trip across the sea to an island. These boats are archaic, but one fare can cost up to $2,000 per person, with no guarantee of living.
From January to April 2015, 900 hundred migrants had died on the passage from Libya to Lampedusa, all trying to get from Africa or the Middle East to Europe. The sink in mid-April added another 700 to that total. Most of them come from Eritrea, Syria (no doubt) and Libya. Libya , on the northern coast of Africa, makes the “short” journey across the Mediterranean Sea to Italy an attractive passage for refugees. The boats leave the coast and stop off at Lampedusa, a small island that belongs to Italy and sits in the middle of the two countries. Some stay, but some continue the journey to Sicily, with hopes of entering deeper into Europe.
Over the past decade, the island has seen 170,100 refugees (as of 2014). The important questions remain: how many more will be coming? How will this affect the 5,000 island inhabitants? How many more will risk their lives before help is sent out to the people?