Bit­ten and scratched bod­ies bear wit­ness to mi­grants’ deadly strug­gle

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - CRISPIAN BALMER

ROME: The bod­ies of 21 women and a man were brought ashore on Si­cily as fel­low mi­grants de­scribed scenes of panic and vi­o­lence when wa­ter poured into their dinghy.

Some sur­vivors had bite marks, tes­ti­mony to a des­per­ate strug­gle on­board to es­cape death.

The stricken boat was dis­cov­ered float­ing off the coast of Libya on Wed­nes­day, with hu­man­i­tar­ian group Medecins Sans Fron­tieres res­cu­ing about 104 sur­vivors and re­triev­ing the badly dis­fig­ured corpses yes­ter­day .

Peo­ple on the rub­ber dinghy said hu­man traf­fick­ers in Libya had pushed too many mi­grants aboard and the floor had split after the boat put to sea, prov­ing a death trap for young women who had been sit­ting in the cen­tral sec­tion.

A 24- year- old Nige­rian woman named Mary told MSF: “I kept ask­ing for help. No­body would help. They were climb­ing on me to stay out of the wa­ter. I thought I would die.

“I had to bite to be able to breathe. The woman I bit stood up. Men were stand­ing on top of me. A woman stood on my face... A woman who was preg­nant died. We were un­der the wa­ter to­gether.”

Erna Ri­jnierse, an MSF doc­tor who was aboard the res­cue ship, the MV Aquar­ius, said there was an eerie si­lence when they neared the dinghy and it was ob­vi­ous there had been a strug­gle.

“You can tell it from the nail scratches on peo­ple’s arms and legs, but also we had 10 peo­ple with hu­man bites on arms, a back and also on the lower back and an­kles,” she said.

Nearly 3 000 mi­grants and refugees have died in the Mediter­ranean Sea this year while try­ing to reach Europe – three quar­ters of them en route from north Africa to Italy, the In­ter­na­tional Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Mi­gra­tion said yes­ter­day.

Just over 80 000 peo­ple, mainly from Africa, have reached Italy since Jan­uary 1, more or less in line with last year’s num­bers, ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures.

Mary told MSF she had been held in prison in Libya – immigrants are of­ten ar­rested there – for two months be­fore find­ing a place on the dinghy. Ri­jnierse said she be­lieved many of the vic­tims had been de­tained prior to the trip and were too weak to fight their way off the floor.

“They rape there. They are look­ing for young girls, you can­not say no, they have guns, shout, speak in their lan­guage,” Mary said, de­scrib­ing her or­deal in the prison be­fore she es­caped and met up with her hus­band.

Another sur­vivor, a 30-yearold man called David from Nige­ria, urged would- be mi­grants not to make the jour­ney.

“Tak­ing the boat is very dan­ger­ous. That is the truth.” He added: “I feel bad about the women who died. It wasn’t sup­posed to hap­pen.” – Reuters

‘I had to bite to

Bri­tain’s Prince Ge­orge, the son of Prince Wil­liam and his wife Kate, cel­e­brated his third birth­day with his father’s of­fice re­leas­ing new pho­to­graphs of the great grand­son of Queen El­iz­a­beth. Ge­orge, the third-in-line to the Bri­tish throne, was pic­tured yes­ter­day with the fam­ily dog Lupo and play­ing in the grounds of the coun­try man­sion in Nor­folk, east Eng­land, which be­longs to his par­ents, the duke and duchess of Cam­bridge. ‘The duke and duchess hope that peo­ple will en­joy see­ing these new pho­to­graphs,’ Wil­liam’s of­fice said in a state­ment. ‘They would like to thank ev­ery­one for all the lovely mes­sages they have re­ceived as Prince Ge­orge cel­e­brates his third birth­day.’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.