Image AFP: Lampedusa

Tragedy at Sea in Lampedusa: One Year On

October 03, 2014 (Geneva) – One year after 368 migrants, mainly from Eritrea, lost their lives in the Mediterranean trying to reach Italy, survivors of the tragedy and relatives of the victims will return to the island of Lampedusa today for the first time to commemorate the event.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM), an European intergovernmental organization, announced today that IOM Director General Ambassador William Lacy Swing, who met last year with the survivors of the shipwreck and heard their stories, will take part in the commemoration.

“Last year the world watched in horror when these migrants lost their lives trying to swim to the shores of Lampedusa. A few days later, on October 11th, hundreds more people, many of them families from Syria, lost their lives in another sinking. And last month, less than a year later, another 500 migrants, including Palestinians, Syrians, Egyptians and Sudanese, met their death at sea off Malta. These tragedies appear endless,” said Ambassador Swing.

The IOM report Fatal Journeys presented earlier this week showed that over 3,000 migrants have died this year in the Mediterranean – now the deadliest region in the world for irregular migration.

“Without (the Italian navy’s) Mare Nostrum operation, launched following the October 2013 tragedy, the number of deaths at sea would have been far higher. The top priority must be to continue patrols of this kind to save lives at sea,” added Swing.

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Ambassador Swing will attend a conference this morning on “Humanitarian Channels for the Prevention of New Casualties”. At the event he will stress the need to provide safer and legal entry opportunities to migrants entitled to international protection.

In IOM’s view, this is the best way to combat criminal organizations, smugglers and traffickers.

Other speakers at the conference will include President of the European Parliament Martin Schulz; President of the Italian Law Chamber Laura Boldrini; President of the Portuguese Parliament Maria De Assuncao Esteves; Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini; and Mayor of Lampedusa Giusy Nicolini. A representative of the families of the victims will also speak.

At midday, flowers will be placed at the spot where the boat sank. The Italian navy and coastguard, with others who participated in the rescue operation, will also place a gravestone on the seabed next to the wreck, which is about 130 feet below the surface. The commemoration will end at 7.00 pm, when 368 thin paper lanterns donated by IOM will be released into the night sky.

By Editorial Team