Syrian baby and five-year-old dead in migrant boat tragedy

Two Syrian girls, one of them an eight-month-old baby, are among up to six people who died when a boat carrying would-be migrants to Europe capsized off Libya Thursday, rescuers said.

Syrian baby and five-year-old dead in migrant boat tragedy
Twenty-seven percent of all migrant arrivals to Europe in the first six months of this year were minors. Photo: AFP

Five bodies were recovered and one passenger was missing, presumed drowned, following the capsize on Thursday.

Some of the 21 survivors told aid workers there had been 27 people from eight Syrian families on the boat.

The Phoenix, a rescue boat run by the Malta-based NGO Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas) and the Italian Red Cross (CRI), recovered the corpses of two women, one man and the baby while the five-year-old's body was picked up by a fishing boat, the organisations said.

Details of the tragedy emerged as the world's attention has been re-focused on the crisis in Syria by this week's poignant pictures of the bloodied, dust-covered face of four-year-old Omran following the bombing of his home in the war-torn city of Aleppo.

Moas co-founder Regina Catrambone said the latest deaths were a tragic reminder that hundreds of migrant children continue to perish at sea a year after toddler Aylan Kurdi's body was washed ashore on a Turkish beach last year.

'Very sad and frustrating'

“It is very sad and frustrating to witness the tragic loss of life at sea, especially that of such a young child,” she said.

“It is time for the international community to come to terms with this reality and to implement safe and legal solutions for the most vulnerable among us to avail themselves of the rights and protections they are entitled to.”

Children represent a growing proportion of the migrants trying to reach Europe by sea from Turkey and North Africa – 27 percent of all arrivals in the first six months of this year were minors, according to the UN refugee agency.

Italy's coastguard said the five deaths occurred on a day when they supervised the rescue of 534 people in 11 different operations off Libya.

Nearly 100,000 migrants have landed at Italian ports this year, roughly in line with the level of arrivals in the same period in 2015. Numbers arriving in Greece have dropped sharply since an EU-Turkey deal in March that is aimed at stemming the flow.

More than 3,000 people have died trying to reach Greece or Italy since the start of the year, a 50 percent rise on last year.

It is relatively rare for Syrians to try to reach Italy via Libya. Over 90 percent of the migrants arriving on Italian shores this year have come from sub-Saharan Africa.


France ‘will not welcome migrants’ from Lampedusa: interior minister

France "will not welcome migrants" from the island, Gérald Darmanin has insisted

France 'will not welcome migrants' from Lampedusa: interior minister

France will not welcome any migrants coming from Italy’s Lampedusa, interior minister Gérald Darmanin has said after the Mediterranean island saw record numbers of arrivals.

Some 8,500 people arrived on Lampedusa on 199 boats between Monday and Wednesday last week, according to the UN’s International Organisation for
Migration, prompting European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen to travel there Sunday to announce an emergency action plan.

According to Darmanin, Paris told Italy it was “ready to help them return people to countries with which we have good diplomatic relations”, giving the
example of Ivory Coast and Senegal.

But France “will not welcome migrants” from the island, he said, speaking on French television on Tuesday evening.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has called on Italy’s EU partners to share more of the responsibility.

The recent arrivals on Lampedusa equal more than the whole population of the tiny Italian island.

The mass movement has stoked the immigration debate in France, where political parties in the country’s hung parliament are wrangling over a draft law governing new arrivals.

France is expected to face a call from Pope Francis for greater tolerance towards migrants later this week during a high-profile visit to Mediterranean city Marseille, where the pontiff will meet President Emmanuel Macron and celebrate mass before tens of thousands in a stadium.