Survivors and families of 94 migrants who died in a shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

Survivors and families of 94 migrants who died in a shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later
Rescuers are seen recovering a body after a migrant boat broke apart in rough seas, at a beach in Steccato di Cutro, in the Italian southern tip, killing at least 94 people in this Feb. 26, 2023 file photo. (AP)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Survivors and families of 94 migrants who died in a shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later

Survivors and families of 94 migrants who died in a shipwreck off Italy call for truth a year later
  • On Feb. 26 last year, a wooden boat carrying about 200 migrants sank a few meters off the coast of southern Calabria

CROTONE, Italy: Survivors and family members of victims of a tragic shipwreck a year ago that killed 94 migrants, including 35 minors, just a few meters off Italy’s southern coast, returned for three days of commemorations ending Monday, calling for truth and justice.

A torchlight vigil on the beach where the ship was wrecked, a photo exhibition and a protest march were among events organized by a group of activists named Network Feb. 26 — after the date of the tragedy — around the town of Crotone. Most of the dead came from countries in the Middle East or South Asia.

“One year after the carnage, their right to the truth, to justice and to be reunited with their families has not been guaranteed yet,” the group wrote on its Facebook page.

On Feb. 26 last year, a wooden boat departed from Turkiye carrying about 200 migrants and sank just a few meters (yards) off the coast of southern Calabria while trying to land on the seaside resort beach of Steccato di Cutro.

Network Feb. 26 includes over 400 associations that have repeatedly asked the Italian government to seek the truth about one of the deadliest migrant shipwrecks in the Mediterranean.

The group has denounced repeated policy failures and alleged violations of human rights by Italian and EU authorities, seen as the main cause behind the long string of deaths of migrants who face risky trips to reach European coasts in their search for a better life.

Activists have also complained that some of the relatives and survivors were denied the right to return to Crotone for the anniversary of the shipwreck, due to difficulties in obtaining proper documents.

“When we met (Italian Premier Giorgia Meloni ) in Rome after the tragedy, (she) promised that her staff would (work) to reunite us and our families, but that has never happened,” said Haroon Mohammadi, 24, a survivor from Herat, Afghanistan, who lost some of his friends in the shipwreck.

Mohammadi now lives in Hamburg, Germany, where he has obtained a one-year residence permit, and hopes to continue to study economics at a university there.

“It’s very difficult for me to be back here, but I came to honor friends and relatives we’ve lost. We became like a family following that day,” he said.

Many of the dead and survivors had fled Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, hoping to join family members in Italy and other Western European countries.

After the shipwreck, the right-wing government of Meloni approved a decree establishing a new crime — people smuggling that causes the death of migrants — punishable by up to 30 years in prison, and pledged to further toughen its battle against illegal immigration.

On Sunday, hundreds of people, including a group of about 50 survivors and relatives of the victims, marched in Crotone despite heavy rain with a banner asking to “stop deaths at sea.” Demonstrators also stopped to pay homage in front of PalaMilone, a sports complex that hosted the victims’ caskets.

On Saturday, Crotone’s Pitagora Museum inaugurated a photo exhibit titled “Dreams Cross the Sea,” featuring 94 photographs, one for each of the victims.

In the early hours of Feb. 26, the boat named Summer Love sank just a few meters (yards) from the coast of the southern Calabria region, while trying to land on the nearby beach. Authorities say the shipwreck resulted in the deaths of at least 94 of the 200 on board. Eighty passengers survived and about 10 were considered missing. Dozens of young children were onboard and almost none survived.

The shocking accident raised several questions over how EU border agency Frontex and the Italian coast guard responded to it.

Six days after the tragedy, Meloni told journalists that “no emergency communication from Frontex reached Italian authorities,” who she said were not warned that the vessel was in danger of sinking.

However, a Frontex incident report later indicated that Italian authorities told the EU agency at the time of the sighting that the case was not considered an emergency.


Frankly Speaking: Why ICC prosecution in Gaza was justified

Frankly Speaking: Why ICC prosecution in Gaza was justified
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Frankly Speaking: Why ICC prosecution in Gaza was justified

Frankly Speaking: Why ICC prosecution in Gaza was justified
  • Regional director for Near and Middle East of the International Committee of the Red Cross says the law of armed conflict makes sense if its violators are prosecuted
  • Fabrizio Carboni discusses ICC prosecutor’s application for arrest warrant against Israeli’s Netanyahu and Gallant, ICRC efforts to resolve other regional conflicts

DUBAI: On May 20, the International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan applied to the court for arrest warrants to be issued against senior Hamas commanders and for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

The International Committee of the Red Cross, one of whose key functions is to call on all parties in a conflict to uphold international humanitarian law, is in favor of prosecutions in cases where individuals have violated the laws of armed conflict.

Fabrizio Carboni, the ICRC’s regional director for Near and Middle East, made the above point clear during an appearance on “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News current affairs program.

Fabrizio Carboni, ICRC regional director for Near and Middle East, spoke to Frankly Speaking host Katie Jensen. (AN photo)
 

“Usually we don’t comment on judiciary matters, especially if they’re related to a conflict where we have a very strong presence and where our staff is present,” he said.

“As a matter of principle, as the ICRC, obviously we believe that the law of armed conflict makes sense if you prosecute the people who violate it.

“And so we obviously, beyond the conflict in Gaza, beyond any specific case, we support prosecution.”

He added: “We support national prosecution first, and then international one if the national prosecution doesn’t comply. Now in this case of the ICC, our position is not to comment. We observe.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Carboni expressed anger at the trauma being experienced by Palestinian ICRC staff in Gaza, and explained among other things the impact of the Gaza war on other regional conflicts and the ICRC’s ongoing role in resolving them.

No matter how big the imbalance of strength between Israel and Hamas, the international humanitarian law applies to both sides, Carboni he told Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking.”

“There is no hierarchy in this. Parties to a conflict, state or non-state armed group, have obligations. And when we think about this humanitarian obligation, it’s basic. It’s the minimum.

“These are not very complex and sophisticated rules — just asking for the civilian population to be spared, just asking for civilians when they are displaced to receive basic assistance, to have access to essential services. It’s really basic humanity.”

Hamas broke international humanitarian law on Oct. 7 when its fighters kidnapped and killed civilians in southern Israel. Since then, Israel has been facing the bulk of the same accusation.

Despite the best efforts of the ICRC to compel Israel and Hamas to abide by the rules of war, it suspects both sides are still violating them. Carboni put this down to what he calls “survival narrative.”

“Something we don’t often mention is emotions and the fact that all parties in this conflict have a narrative of survival,” he said.

“I’m not commenting. I’m not saying it’s right or wrong. I’m just seeing this. And when I engage all parties to this conflict, there is a survival narrative.”

In November last year, Israel and Hamas agreed to a humanitarian pause in the fighting, which permitted an exchange of prisoners and hostages and allowed aid agencies to get urgently needed supplies into Gaza to help civilians.

Fighting soon resumed, however, and attempts by interlocutors since at securing a permanent ceasefire have failed.

If given the opportunity of another humanitarian pause, Carboni is confident the ICRC can make a significant difference to the lives of Palestinians trapped in Gaza and the hostages still held by Hamas.

“We could make a difference for the Palestinian people, because you might have assistance increase significantly during this pause,” he said. “We could have access to many areas safely and assist more Palestinian people.

“At the very same time, we could get hostages released. We could get detainees on the Palestinian side released by Israel. And this represents a form of hope.”

Part of the ICRC’s remit is to intercede in hostage negotiations. Carboni said the families of the hostages still held in Gaza are in a “permanent state of torture.” “Unfortunately, we know very little about the fate of the people who were taken hostage,” he said.

“It’s part of this political, military environment where you negotiate everything, even things which shouldn’t be negotiated, such as the release of hostages, because (the taking) of hostages is totally prohibited.

“You can only imagine the condition of the hostages. You imagine the fighting, you imagine the bombing, you see the situation in Gaza, and you can imagine what the hostages are going through.

“And also a word on the families. When you’re a member of a family of a hostage or just a person missing, you don’t know, is he alive, is she alive, dead or not? Is she in good health, not in good health? And this situation for the families is a permanent state of torture.

“And I really feel this pain with the families of the hostages. Any family, being Palestinian or Israeli, who doesn’t know where his or her loved one is. And that’s why, as ICRC, we try to push as much as we can to find an answer, to release the hostages now.”

Carboni revealed that a couple of weeks ago, there was hope during two or three days for a ceasefire and release of hostages. “We really thought, a lot of people thought, that we would get there,” he said.

“And then suddenly it all collapsed. And I can tell you that the psychological impact of this failure on the civilian population in Gaza, on the families of the hostages, is devastating.”

Meanwhile, according to him, humanitarians are running out of words to describe the misery that the Palestinian people are enduring in Gaza under Israel’s offensive. He underscored the urgency of de-escalation in Gaza, where Israel has been fighting the Palestinian militant group Hamas since Oct. 7 last year.

“There is an urgent need to de-escalate the level of violence,” he said. “What we see today in Gaza is unbearable.

“The civilian population, the Palestinian population, is going through a round of misery, which I have difficulty to even describe, because after seven months, eight months, I have the impression we used pretty much all the possible words to describe what they’re going through.

“I’m really concerned, because we don’t have words anymore. I’m afraid that at one stage, the situation of the Palestinian people in Gaza and including the hostages won’t be news anymore, because we are turning in circles, because we don’t see an improvement, because we see no end to this misery.”

Carboni added: “Every time I think about Gaza, I’m thinking about my Palestinian colleagues who are trapped in Gaza. “I’m thinking about their children, I’m thinking about their family, I’m thinking about the fact that they’ve been moved again.

“Most of them were coming from Gaza City. Then they moved to Khan Younis. Then they moved to Rafah. Now they are moving again. And I’m thinking about them.

“I’m thinking about, on the one hand, their courage, and on the other hand, this feeling of not being able to help them, not being able to alleviate their distress, their anxiety, their frustration.

“As a father, as a parent, I also connect with my colleagues who have children. It’s now, what, six, seven months that those children are living on a battlefield? Because Gaza is a very special situation. You’re permanently on the battlefield.

“You have children who, every day, are hearing bombs. Who’ve seen people being killed, wounded, children seeing their parents helpless.

“So, when I think about Gaza, I think about ICRC’s Palestinian staff, and it gives me the energy, humbles me, and at the same time makes me angry, because I don’t think my colleagues need to go through this.”

Palestinians inspect the destruction following overnight Israeli strikes on Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip on May 6, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas. (AFP)3

Asked whether he thought the worst is now over or if there was still potential for a wider regional conflagration emanating from Gaza, Carboni said the spillover has already occurred, raising fears of an unintended escalation.

“It’s not that we have to fear a regional conflict happening — it’s happening while we’re talking,” he said. “We have the fighting in Lebanon. We had this night where we had missiles and drones launched from Iran on Israel. The regional conflict is happening.”

Beyond its role as a humanitarian aid agency, Carboni said ICRC plays a critical role in conflict resolution, in the hope that “diplomacy will prevail, politics will prevail, and not the use of force.”

However, the violence in Gaza has had a detrimental effect on conflicts elsewhere in the region, including in Yemen, where the Iran-backed Houthi militia has been locked in battle with the UN-recognized Yemeni government since 2014.

Since the outbreak of fighting in Gaza, the Houthi militia has mounted attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, ostensibly in solidarity with Palestinians, prompting retaliatory strikes by the US and UK.

As a result, the ceasefire between the Houthis and the Yemeni government, which expired in October 2022 but has remained largely intact, has been cast into doubt. Carboni said a prisoner exchange deal could get the stalled process back on track.

“The crisis in Gaza shook all the conflicts in the region,” he said. “I see the authorities in Riyadh trying to nevertheless push for this permanent ceasefire and tomorrow a peace agreement. One of the measures which would facilitate, which would build confidence, is to continue the release of detainees.”
 

 


US, French diplomats commemorate Tunisia synagogue attack

US, French diplomats commemorate Tunisia synagogue attack
Updated 45 min 43 sec ago
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US, French diplomats commemorate Tunisia synagogue attack

US, French diplomats commemorate Tunisia synagogue attack

DJERBA, Tunisia: Diplomats from the United States and France visited on Sunday the Ghriba synagogue on Tunisia’s Djerba island to commemorate a deadly attack there last year amid a Jewish pilgrimage hampered by security fears.

French Ambassador Anne Gueguen and Natasha Franceschi, the US deputy chief of mission in Tunisia, lit candles and placed flowers inside Africa’s oldest synagogue.

They both declined to be interviewed, and members of their teams said the event was too emotional for them to speak.

On May 9, 2023, a Tunisian policeman shot dead a colleague and took his ammunition before heading to the synagogue, where hundreds of people were taking part in the annual pilgrimage. 

The assailant killed two more officers as well as two worshippers there.

After rumors that this year’s pilgrimage would be canceled altogether due to security concerns and as tensions soar over the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, organizers had said the three-day event “will be limited.”

As the diplomats visited Djerba, only about a dozen Jewish pilgrims attended the festival, which started on Friday.

“When I see it empty like this, it hurts,” pilgrim Hayim Haddad said in tears on the first day of the pilgrimage.


Cyclone hits Bangladesh as nearly a million flee inland for shelter

Cyclone hits Bangladesh as nearly a million flee inland for shelter
Updated 26 May 2024
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Cyclone hits Bangladesh as nearly a million flee inland for shelter

Cyclone hits Bangladesh as nearly a million flee inland for shelter
  • Most of Bangladesh’s coastal areas are a meter or two above sea level and high storm surges can devastate villages
  • Forecasters predicted gusts of up to 130 kilometers per hour, with heavy rain and winds also lashing neighboring India

PATUAKHALI: An intense cyclone smashed into the low-lying coast of Bangladesh on Sunday, with nearly a million people fleeing inland for concrete storm shelters away from howling gales and crashing waves.
“The severe Cyclone Remal has started crossing the Bangladesh coast,” Bangladesh Meteorological Department Director Azizur Rahman told AFP, adding the raging storm could continue hammering the coast until at least the early hours of Monday morning.
“We have so far recorded maximum wind speeds of 90 kilometers (56 miles) per hour, but the wind speed may pick up more pace.”
Forecasters predicted gusts of up to 130 kilometers (81 miles) per hour, with heavy rain and winds also lashing neighboring India.
Authorities have raised the danger signal to its highest level.
Cyclones have killed hundreds of thousands of people in Bangladesh in recent decades, but the number of superstorms hitting its densely populated coast has increased sharply, from one a year to as many as three, due to the impact of climate change.
“The cyclone could unleash a storm surge of up to 12 feet (four meters) above normal astronomical tide, which can be dangerous,” Bangladeshi senior weather official Muhammad Abul Kalam Mallik told AFP.
Most of Bangladesh’s coastal areas are a meter or two above sea level and high storm surges can devastate villages.
“We are terrified,” said 35-year-old fisherman Yusuf Fakir at Kuakata, a town on the very southern tip of Bangladesh in the predicted route of the storm, speaking just before its arrival.
While he had sent his wife and children to a relative’s home inland, he stayed put to guard their belongings.
At least 800,000 Bangladeshis fled their coastal villages, while more than 50,000 people in India also moved inland from the vast Sundarbans mangrove forest, where the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna rivers meet the sea, government ministers and disaster officials said.
“We want to ensure that a single life is not lost,” said Bankim Chandra Hazra, a senior minister in India’s West Bengal state.
As people fled, Bangladeshi police said that a heavily laden ferry carrying more than 50 passengers — double its capacity — was swamped and sank near Mongla, a port in the expected path of the storm.
“At least 13 people were injured and were taken to a hospital,” local police chief Mushfiqur Rahman Tushar told AFP, adding that other boats plucked the passengers to safety.
A young man drowned in rough seas at Kuakata on Sunday afternoon, district government administrator Nur Kutubul Alam told AFP.
Bangladesh’s disaster management secretary Kamrul Hasan said people had been ordered to move from “unsafe and vulnerable” homes.
“At least 800,000 people have been shifted to cyclone shelters,” Hasan said.
The authorities have mobilized tens of thousands of volunteers to alert people to the danger, but local officials said many people stayed home as they feared their property would be stolen if they left.
He said around 4,000 cyclone shelters have been readied along the country’s lengthy coast on the Bay of Bengal.
In addition to the villagers and fishermen, many of the multi-story centers have space to shelter cattle, buffaloes and goats, as well as pets.
On the low-lying island of Bhashan Char, home to 36,000 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, 57 cyclone centers were opened, deputy refugee commissioner Mohammad Rafiqul Haque told AFP.
The country’s three seaports and the airport in the second-largest city Chittagong were closed, officials said.
India’s Kolkata airport closed Sunday, while the Indian navy readied two ships with aid and medical supplies for “immediate deployment.”
While scientists say climate change is fueling more storms, better forecasting and more effective evacuation planning have dramatically reduced the death toll.
In the Great Bhola Cyclone in November 1970, an estimated half a million people died — mostly drowned by the storm surge.
In May last year, Cyclone Mocha became the most powerful storm to hit Bangladesh since Cyclone Sidr in November 2007.
Sidr killed more than 3,000 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.
Last October, at least two people were killed and nearly 300,000 fled their homes for storm shelters when Cyclone Hamoon hit the country’s southeastern coast.


Right-wing politician Nigel Farage accused of generalizing about UK Muslims for ‘not sharing British values’

Right-wing politician Nigel Farage accused of generalizing about UK Muslims for ‘not sharing British values’
Updated 26 May 2024
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Right-wing politician Nigel Farage accused of generalizing about UK Muslims for ‘not sharing British values’

Right-wing politician Nigel Farage accused of generalizing about UK Muslims for ‘not sharing British values’
  • Honorary president of Reform UK party interviewed by Sky News’ presenter Trevor Phillips

LONDON: Controverisal right-wing figure Nigel Farage was accused on Sunday of generalizing about UK Muslims for “not sharing British values” during an interview on Sky News.

The honorary president of the Reform UK party was being interviewed by the channel’s presenter Trevor Phillips, whom he told there is “a growing number of young people” in the UK who were “on the streets of London every Saturday” and “loathe much of what we stand for.”

When pressed by Phillips on whether he was referring to British Muslims, Farage said: “We are. I am afraid I found some of the recent surveys saying 46 percent of British Muslims support Hamas, support a terrorist organisation that is proscribed in this country.”

He was quoting a Henry Jackson Society poll released in April that reported that only one in four British Muslims believed Hamas members committed murder and rape in Israel on Oct. 7 last year, in which around 1,200 people were killed and 250 taken hostage in an attack on the south of the country.

Farage compared British Muslims to people of British-Caribbean origin, who he claimed had a shared herotage with the UK, and asked Phillips — whose parents moved to Britain as part of the Windrush generation from the West Indies — how many people in his community could not speak English.

Phillips replied: “We all speak English,” before adding that many British Muslims also spoke the language.

Farage rejected the claim and said that we had not been appearing on the program to “attack the religion of Islam,” adding that he had not done so. He blamed the issue on the two main British political parties and their immigration policies.

“I’m blaming elements of that community, I’m not blaming them. I’m stating a fact, no one else dares tell the truth about this,” he said.

“On the broader question, the biggest single problem this country faces is the population explosion. And it will not be debated in this election.

“Why? Because Labour started it and the (Conservatives) accelerated it. That has led to a problem on a scale unimaginable. Nobody in history has allowed more people in who are potentially really going to fight against British values than (Prime Minister Rishi) Sunak.”


Twelve injured as Qatar Airways Dublin flight hits turbulence, airport says

Twelve people traveling on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Ireland were injured during a bout of turbulence.
Twelve people traveling on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Ireland were injured during a bout of turbulence.
Updated 26 May 2024
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Twelve injured as Qatar Airways Dublin flight hits turbulence, airport says

Twelve people traveling on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Ireland were injured during a bout of turbulence.
  • Irish broadcaster RTE said the incident lasted less than 20 seconds and occurred during food and drinks service
  • Aircraft experienced turbulence while airborne over Turkiye, Dublin Airport said in a statement

DUBLIN: Twelve people traveling on a Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Ireland were injured during a bout of turbulence, Dublin Airport said on Sunday, adding that the plane landed safely and as scheduled.
Flight QR017, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, landed shortly before 1 p.m. Dublin time (1200 GMT), the airport said.
“Upon landing, the aircraft was met by emergency services, including Airport Police and our Fire and Rescue department, due to 6 passengers and 6 crew [12 total] on board reporting injuries after the aircraft experienced turbulence while airborne over Turkiye,” Dublin Airport said in a statement.
Irish broadcaster RTE, citing passengers arriving at Dublin Airport, said the incident lasted less than 20 seconds and occurred during food and drinks service.

Qatar Airways told Sky News that the injuries sustained by passengers and crew were “minor.”

It said: “[They] are now receiving medical attention... The safety and security of our passengers and crew are our top priority.”

An internal investigation regarding the incident has now been launched, the airline said. 
The incident took place five days after a Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore was forced to land in Bangkok due to severe turbulence, which killed a 73-year-old British man and left 20 others in intensive care.
Turbulence-related airline accidents are the most common type, according to a 2021 study by the US National Transportation Safety Board.
From 2009 through 2018, the US agency found that turbulence accounted for more than a third of reported airline accidents and most resulted in one or more serious injuries, but no aircraft damage.