The latest figures speak of over 300 dead. The Pope’s appeal
“Say what you like, but when you’re on a patrol boat in a force-8 sea and you go to rescue a small, half-deflated and sinking dinghy over 100 miles out, it’s more likely that you won’t find anyone than you’ll be saving lives,” says Mauro Casinghini, National Director of the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps, the day after the new tragedy off Lampedusa, in which over 300 immigrants died. A figure which is rising by the hour as the survivors testify to four dinghies departing from Tripoli with 460 refugees on board, including women and children, mostly coming from Mali, the Ivory Coast, Senegal and Niger.
The bad weather conditions caused one boat to sink a few miles out of Libya, while another lost air not long after and the third started to ship water. The Italian Coastguards managed to save the fourth dinghy last Monday with over a hundred immigrants aboard, of whom twenty-nine were dead from hypothermia. The doctors, nurses and rescuers from the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps were also on board the patrol boats. Since 2008 they have been present on the island of Lampedusa with teams embarked on the main Coastguard and Navy vessels as well as the Finance Police boats.
“Not even the largest vessel, except for the Class 300 patrol boats – those with the orange dinghies – could have arrived faster to rescue the immigrants, already in serious difficulty, besides being exhausted,” Mauro Casinghini told us. “The Order of Malta’s personnel have helped to achieve a miracle, saving a least 70 refugees who without the intervention of those patrol boats would have ended up like all those other hundreds and hundreds who lie on the bottom of the Mediterranean”.
Just as in other similar tragic events, the Order of Malta’s Relief Corps’ psychologists arrived in Lampedusa to assist the Coastguards’ personnel and the Order’s doctors and nurses already present.
There was also the appeal of Pope Francis who, in his Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square, expressed his profound sorrow for yet another disaster at sea and added: “I wish to ensure you of my prayers for the victims and once again to encourage solidarity, in order that no one lack the necessary aid”.