On October 3, 2013, one of many Mediterranean’s worst shipwrecks occurred off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa. The vessel carrying nearly 500 individuals, sank, ensuing within the lack of at the very least 368 lives.
I used to be working within the humanitarian subject in Rome on the time and was horrified to have one thing so tragic occur so near house. I heard tales from colleagues about divers who had been pulling victims out – physique by physique, day-to-day – lining them up on the harbour. I used to be heartbroken to see the images of neatly organized caskets in a warehouse; a couple of small white ones carrying the our bodies of kids had been pulled up within the entrance.
It has been 10 years since this tragedy and the horrible recollections of it nonetheless hang-out Lampedusa. Sadly, not sufficient has been carried out to forestall such lethal incidents from taking place once more. Greater than 28,000 individuals have been reported useless or lacking since 2014 within the Mediterranean Sea, greater than 1,100 of them kids.
A couple of weeks forward of the anniversary, I discovered myself in Lampedusa. The island once more was going via a tough time. In a single week, it had seen the arrival of an estimated 10,000 individuals, a quantity which is almost double its everlasting inhabitants.
In all my years working for humanitarian organisations, I had by no means seen the island like this. The services set as much as accommodate new arrivals had been overwhelmed by strains of males, girls and youngsters, a few of whom had been compelled to sleep exterior within the streets. Individuals wandered into city in quest of meals and water after spending days with out consuming.
Every particular person arriving had a narrative marked by sacrifice and resilience. Many got here with nothing, usually carrying solely a plastic bag with an object from a liked one or soil from their homeland. There have been kids who had skilled gender-based violence and moms who had survived rape. There have been individuals who had misplaced family members on the best way.
Amid the ache and struggling of the individuals arriving by boat, one story of humanity stood out for me. An 18-year-old younger man from West Africa had simply arrived with a three-year-old youngster. They weren’t family; he had found the kid alone within the desert and guarded him all through their perilous journey throughout the Mediterranean.
The kid is receiving applicable care, however his identify, nationality and precise age stay unknown. Tragically, he’s amongst a rising variety of younger kids arriving alone.
All through Italy, we’ve seen the arrival of over 133,000 migrants this 12 months, together with greater than 11,600 unaccompanied minors, in keeping with the Italian Ministry of Inside. Alarmingly, kids aged between zero and 6 years, alone, with out household, signify over 2 p.c of those arrivals – a tenfold enhance from earlier years.
On the identical time, kids proceed to lose their lives attempting to cross the Mediterranean. Because the begin of the 12 months, greater than 4,500 individuals, together with many kids, have died, or gone lacking whereas trying the harmful journey by sea to Europe.
At Lampedusa, I met two moms who informed me they’d simply misplaced their young children, a new child and a five-month-old, at sea. Their heartbreaking testimonies jogged my memory of one other story that has caught with me for greater than seven years now: A baby, who survived a shipwreck as a result of his mom handed him over to a person, shortly earlier than drowning – a last act of affection and desperation to save lots of her son’s life.
However in my work, I’ve additionally heard tales of hope that preserve me going. In June, I met a 14-year-old boy from Gambia in Sicily, whose solely dream was to check. In the present day, he’s in an Italian college, immensely grateful for the chance to proceed his schooling.
Each youngster should be protected and obtain correct care and schooling. Anybody fleeing adversity should be capable of discover refuge and hope.
A decade after the Lampedusa tragedy, we’re but to see substantial reform and proactive measures inside the European Union that may guarantee this. We nonetheless want a coordinated European search and rescue mechanism and secure and common routes permitting individuals fleeing poverty, battle and local weather change-related disasters to succeed in Europe.
The time for solidarity and coordinated motion is now. The duty to guard and obtain individuals searching for secure haven is a collective one, and we should all push for unified motion to make sure their security and well-being.
Migration will not be an emergency, however a human phenomenon which must be addressed and correctly managed. Mass demise within the Mediterranean is totally preventable and should be prevented.
Editor’s notice: An earlier model of the piece had 2,500 because the quantity of people that have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean in 2023. The determine has been up to date to 4,500 per Lacking Migration Undertaking knowledge.
The views expressed on this article are the creator’s personal and don’t essentially mirror Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.