Libyan refugee shipwreck near Lampedusa stirs call for watchfulness and humanitarian solutions

Lampedusa, a small island off of Italy has become a port of call for   thousands of migrants fleeing war-torn Libya.  There is also evidence that soldiers force their people unto  dilapidated, overcrowded boats. The island located 180 miles off the  the Libyan coast has received both  live refugees and corpses that have washed up.

Witnesses in Tripoli said  this Sunday’s shipwreck was only 100 yards from shore when it broke up. It’s not clear how many people died or drowned, but 16 bodies – including those of two babies.

This tragedy in addition to the high death toll in April,  estimated at around 800, the U.N. High Commissioner for Witnesses has urged the crews of ships in the Mediterranean to keep watch for unseaworthy vessels carrying migrants from war-torn Libya after a report that a ship with 600 people on board broke up just off the port of Tripoli on Friday,  May 6.

A  representative said there had been a “dramatic increase in the number of boats making this terrible journey,” as migrants, many of them from sub-Saharan Africa, try to flee Libya’s turmoil, heading for sanctuary on the Italian island of Lampedusa

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Before rebellions began to sweep through North Africa in January and February, several North African countries, including Libya and Tunisia, routinely patrolled their coastlines to prevent migrants from trying to reach southern European countries that did not welcome them. But those controls dissolved as the uprisings broke out.

The Italian interior minister, Roberto Maroni, said Monday that at least 10,000 people had made the crossing to Italy from Libya since the turmoil began. He said that should the war continue, Italy should prepare for an even greater swell in this human tide.

Will this tide become Italy’s problem alone or  will the migrants be absorbed by the European Community?  As long as NATO continues  its airstrikes on Libya the  migration will continue.  A fair, humanitarian solution must be found.

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