Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Lampedusa Boat Sinking Riots Hit Ethiopia Mai Ayni Refugee Camps in Tigray and Three Eritreans Killed

Bags containing African migrants
Body bags containing African migrants, who drowned trying to reach Italian shores (Reuters)
A prominent human rights activist claims three Eritrean refugees have died and many more have been injured at refugee camps in northern Ethiopia after a memorial vigil dedicated to the victims of the Lampedusa boat sinking turned violent.
Meron Estefanos, also a radio presenter in Sweden for Radio Erena, exclusively told IBTimes UK that a riot erupted in the Mai Ayni refugee camp after Eritrean refugees started expressing their frustration at authorities.
Police opened fire to disperse the riot and four children were wounded as a result. The unrest spread to other refugee camps such as the Adi Harish and three people were killed.
"Refugees, who contacted Eritrean independent Radio Erena, disclosed that the initial objective of the gatherings was to remember those who perished in the Lampedusa disaster, but quickly turned into a protest over what refugees considered corruption in the refugee resettlement process as well as issues over camp security," Estefanos said.
A spokesperson at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) confirmed to IBTimes UKthat riots took place in the refugee camps but was unable to confirm the fatalities, adding that the situation was calming down.
Over 65,000 Eritrean refugees live in Ethiopia, spread across four refugee camps.
"The refugees believe that many of those who are making the perilous journey via Libya and the Sahara Desert do so because the resettlement program in Ethiopian refugee camps is corrupt with many Ethiopians being given bogus refugee statuses that qualify them for resettlement opportunities and often they are prioritised over genuine refugees," Estefanos said.
Refugees stressed that the protest was mainly peaceful but other reports say that angry migrants started throwing stones at local authorities.
The UNHCR estimates that up to 3,000 refugees escape from Eritrea every month and the majority of those are currently in refugee camps in Sudan and Ethiopia.
Around 500 people were aboard the refugee boat when it capsized and sank half a mile from Lampedusa. So far 211 people have been confirmed dead, but it is feared that at least 300 people have perished.
The UNHCR reported that 8,400 migrants landed in Italy and Malta in the first six months of 2013. The majority of them, following a well-worn path from northern Africa and the Middle East, continue their journey to northern Italy, Germany, France or the UK.
After leaving Eritrea for Sudan and south Egypt, Eritrean migrants travel to Libya where the majority are usually arrested..

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dozens more bodies found after migrant disaster off Lampedusa

BBC News - Lampedusa boat disaster: Migrant tells of ordeal

 Futsum Mesfa
More than 350 people are said to have died when a boat of African migrants sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa last Thursday. Futsum Mesfa, from Eritrea, is one of the lucky survivors. He tells the BBC of the ordeal.
On the rocks of Lampedusa island, Futsum and Berihu are looking at the sea.
Both are from Eritrea and 20 years old. Futsum says that after arriving in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, he was driven in a car for two hours and arrived on a beach where a large group gathered before setting off for Lampedusa.
They were first told that they were heading to Sicily but later, during the journey, the skipper told them that plan had changed.
"The boat completely stopped when we got close to the island, it wouldn't move anymore.
"The skipper decided we needed to attract attention so we could get rescued. He set fire to a blanket, but his hand caught fire and he threw the burning blanket away towards people who were sitting there.
"People started screaming and everybody ran towards other side of the boat.
The boat lost its balance and capsized. I also panicked with the others, I didn't want to get burned and I jumped into the water.
"For a short moment the boat floated - it was upside down but didn't sink immediately, so I got on top of it.
"Then after five minutes the boat disappeared under the water and I started swimming.
"We could see the lights of Lampedusa in the dark and swam towards the lights.
"After swimming for a long time - probably around three hours - boats started to arrive to rescue us. Rescue boats, small boats, all the boats in the area came to save us, they dragged us out of the water.
"I lost my cousin, who was on the boat with me, I also lost many friends, I had spent a lot of time with many of the guys there so I consider them all my family."
Key migrant routes to southern Europe
Map of migrants routes

Why people flee Eritrea and Somalia

  • UN says 3,000 people try to flee each month
  • Human rights groups say the country is becoming a giant jail, with some 10,000 political prisoners
  • Young people conscripted to army - sometimes until age of 40
  • Much of the country controlled by al-Shabab Islamist militants
  • Country ravaged by two decades of war
Map showing departure countries for migrants who go to Italy
Have you or has anyone you know made this journey? Or have you taken other risks to get into Europe? Please get in touch using the form below.