Migrants dead after boat capsizes at sea

At least five people died and many were injured when a boat carrying over 30 migrants crossing to Europe capsized at sea during a rescue operation on Friday 23 February 2024.

It was reported that the vessel capsized during the operation run jointly by the Civil Protection Department and the Armed Forces of Malta.

Photo of the operation conducted on Friday. Photo: AFM

The incident happened just a few days after 25 local organisations meeting for the annual Baħar Ċimiterju remembered the thousands of people who die crossing the Mediterranean Sea every year. They called on the Maltese authorities to prevent further deaths and human rights violations in the region.

According to the International Organisation for Migration at least 3,041 people died in the Sea in 2023, making it one of the deadliest years on record. The Central Mediterranean Route, from Tunisia and Libya to Malta and Italy, is especially dangerous. According to UNICEF, 11 children die along this route every week.

On Sunday, activists met at the Gardjola Gardens in Senglea behind a blue cloth with white paper boats on it and carried banners reading “It could have been your children”, “Kif torqdu bil-lejl bil-mewt fuq l-idejn?” (How can you sleep at night when you have death on your hands?), and “Demmhom fuq idejna” (Their blood on our hands).

Photo: Moviment Graffitti via Facebook

In a joint statement the organisations called on the Maltese authorities to:

  • Conduct and coordinate timely rescue of people in distress in our search and rescue zone
  • Enact policies and espouse rhetoric that upholds the value of all human life.
  • Immediately end the policy of coordinating pushbacks from Malta’s search and rescue zone.
  • Cease support for and collaboration with actors that violate human rights, such as the Libyan Coast Guard and the Tariq Bin Zayed Brigade.
  • Stop criminalising humanitarian rescue organisations and start coordinating with them to save lives at sea.

*24 February 2024 – updated with photo of AF operation

By Brian Decelis

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