Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Survivors: Traffickers left them to die like beasts

02 July 2014, 06:54

Rome - Horrific accounts emerged Tuesday of how 30 migrants were left to die, bolted by traffickers into the suffocating hull of an overcrowded fishing boat, as their bodies were brought to Sicily for burial.

"There were too many of us. They forced us onto the boat, though there was no space left. Those inside, with the hatch closed, they were killed," a young Syrian survivor was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera daily.

"When they tried to get out, to escape the heat, the lack of oxygen and the fumes, the traffickers - fearing the boat would capsize - gave the order to keep them inside, bolting the hatch," the paper said.

Sobbing migrants told police of their attempts to rescue their friends and relatives, and of the traffickers' refusal to open the hatch or turn back even as the tiny hold filled with engine fumes.

"We tried to rescue them as soon as we realised what was happening. We did everything, but it was too late. They looked like they were sleeping," one distraught man was quoted by La Repubblica as saying.

Another said "they piled us in like beasts. We asked to turn back but they said it was too late".

Two of the survivors were arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of people trafficking, Italian media reports said.

'New Auschwitz'

Stefano Frumento, captain of the frigate which helped rescue the survivors, described the view as he pulled up alongside the boat, with toddlers, pregnant women and men hanging over the sides, waving their arms and calling out.

"I'd never seen that many people crammed in like that in my life. There were over 600 people crushed into 20m," he told La Stampa daily.

Rescuers at the port of Pozzallo struggled to pull the bodies free from the small blue fishing boat, in which the migrants - for the most part from Syria, Eritrea, Somalia and Cameroon - had set sail from the coast of North Africa for Italy.

"The hold, with dozens of bodies piled one on top of another like a mass grave, is the new Auschwitz of the Mediterranean," police officer Nico Ciavola said.

Firemen armed with chainsaws cut away at the narrow entrance to the hold, while a local parish priest waited on the dock to bless the bodies once they were free.

All the dead were men. Among the survivors were 52 children - including some just a few months old - and three heavily pregnant women, the reports said.

Pozzallo mayor Luigi Ammatuna, watching as hearses carrying steel coffins drove onto the portside, said he had "death in my heart. It's like I've been punched in the stomach".

The survivors were placed in a makeshift reception centre, where they are likely to stay while the investigation into the disaster is carried out.

It is not the first time tragedy has struck the so-called "boats of fortune" used for the perilous crossing to Europe. Last year, two shipwrecks saw over 400 refugees drown near the Italian island of Lampedusa, and a series of smaller tragedies have struck in the last few weeks.

The number of migrant arrivals has now soared past the record 63 000 set in 2011 during the Arab Spring uprisings, and EU border agency Frontex has warned that calm seas across the summer will encourage many more to attempt the trip.


Tags italy

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...