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RBB Update: Deadliest Mediterranean Shipwreck in a Decade

June 18, 2023

On Wednesday 14th June, disaster struck when a fishing boat carrying 750 people who were on the move/ displaced from Tobruk, Libya to Italy capsized. The boat was 25-30 meters long and overflowing with people. It is reported that the deck was full of men whilst women children were locked in the hold below.

This is the second deadliest shipwreck to happen in the Mediterranean sea within a decade, the other shipwreck taking place in June 2016 off the island of Crete, when 320 people were listed as dead or missing.

Alarm Phone, is a hotline used in the Mediterranean sea for people who are in trouble / distress. Alarm Phone documents SOS situations and calls, informing the coastguards if additional rescue support is needed. They reported calls and messages they received from people in distress from this boat to the coastguards, however, coastguards only acted 24hrs after the SOS was raised. The boat was 42 MN southwest of Pylos, Greece when the tragedy struck.

So far it is reported:

  • 750 people were on the boat
  • 104 people have been rescued
  • 79 people are dead
  • 568 people are missing

It is feared that the death toll could run into 100s of people. Those that have survived were transported to the Port of Kalamata, where they have been treated. Thirty people have been treated for pneumonia and exhaustion. They are also experiencing psychological shock. Some of the surviving people have been placed in a camp in Athens. For those who have survived it is important for them to have time to rest and recover from this ordeal, and humanitarian support.

The chances of finding more people alive are extremely minimal due to the boat capsizing in the deepest part of the Mediterranean sea. The bodies of the deceased have been taken to Athens where they await to be identified by family members and by DNA tests. It is unclear who boarded the fishing boat and for this reason many of the people will remain missing and unknown.

“I feel that this will be our last night alive.”

A call received by Nawal Soufi (Activist and Humanitarian) who was contacted by people on the boat.

We at Refugee Biriyani and Bananas are heartbroken over this tragedy and our thoughts and prayers go out to those who have lost their lives, those who are missing, and their families.

The Mediterranean sea crossing is the deadliest route for people to take. Year after year tragedies like this are happening and the fatality rate is rising. There needs to be a safe and legal passage for people on the move to take, so as to avoid disasters like this repeating.

The U.N. International Organisation for Migration has recorded more than 26,000 deaths or disappearances in the Mediterranean since 2014.

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