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Priti Patel offers joint patrols with France – latest updates

Priti Patel offers joint patrols with France – latest updates

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As tragic as the scenes from the Channel tonight have been, devastatingly it is just one of many incidents where people have lost their lives while desperately seeking refuge and fleeing conflict or persecution.

On 3 October 2013, a few miles off the Italian island of Lampedusa, a fishing boat carrying 440 asylum seekers from Eritrea and Somalia, was about to sink. In an attempt to contact nearby boats, a man had set on fire a piece of blanket. He didn’t know that the boat was littered with gasoline due to a fuel leak after the engine had broken. To avoid the flames, many people threw themselves into the water. And many of them didn’t know how to swim. The vessel eventually capsized; over 368 people died. The pictures of hundreds of coffins, laying in rows, identified by numbers, in Lampedusa, went all around the world. It was the most dramatic shipwreck up to that time. Unfortunately, more will follow.

One year later, on 15 September 2014, more than 250 migrants died when a boat sank a half a mile off the Libyan coast. Hundreds of bodies remained trapped underwater.

On 18 April 2015, over 1,100 asylum seekers from Eritrea, Senegal, Mauritania, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, Mali, the Gambia and Somalia, had been trying to reach Europe from north Africa onboard a fishing boat with a capacity of about 30 passengers. The vessel sank in the night after colliding with a Portuguese freighter that had approached to offer assistance. Only 28 people survived. Over one thousand people died. The vast majority of corpses were in the hull, wedged 400m deep on the seafloor. The vessel was recovered by Italian authorities in 2016 and the recovery itself became a public spectacle, as an entire section of the Italian navy was engaged in the operation and work dragged on for months at a cost of €9.5m. Only six of these corpses have been identified so far.

In May 2016, in the space of seven days, more than 700 people drowned in the Mediterranean. The casualties happened in three separate incidents after more than 13,000 people had set sail from Libya for Italy.

In July 2019, about 150 migrants seeking to reach Europe drowned in a shipwreck off the coast of Al Khoms in western Libya. About 140 migrants survived the shipwreck and were rescued by local fishermen and the Libyan Coast Guard.



Migrants are seen in a boat as they are rescued by Libyan Coast Guards in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya. Photograph: Ayman Al-Sahili/Reuters


© Provided by The Guardian
Migrants are seen in a boat as they are rescued by Libyan Coast Guards in the Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Libya. Photograph: Ayman Al-Sahili/Reuters

Last year, at least 140 people died off the coast of Senegal in the deadliest shipwreck recorded in 2020. The deaths, which followed other 4 shipwrecks in the central Mediterranean the week before, and another in the Channel, came amid a huge rise in the number of migrants and refugees using the dangerous Atlantic route from Africa to the Canary Islands.

The most tragic shipwreck in the central mediterranean this year occurred last April, when at least 130 asylum seekers died after their rubber boat capsized in stormy seas off the coast of Libya.

An estimated 1,300 people have died or gone missing while attempting to cross the central Mediterranean so far this year. Since 2014, 22,825 people have gone missing or died on this route.

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