Geneva/Rome 3 October 2016: Three years ago today, almost 400 people drowned off the coast of Italy’s Lampedusa island as they attempted to escape violence and poverty for safety in Europe.
The overcrowded wooden boat carrying more than 500 people caught fire and capsized half a mile from the shore, causing one of the highest single death tolls from a shipwreck in the Mediterranean.
The disaster was met with an international outcry calling for greater protection for people in search of a safe future. Since that day, more than 10,000 have drowned in the Mediterranean, including 3,200 so far this year.
President of the Italian Red Cross, Francesco Rocca, said: “Our volunteers were on the shore in Lampedusa that day, supporting the survivors who were haunted by the horror they had witnessed.
“Three years later and people continue to die in their thousands – nothing has changed. Indifference is killing people.”
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This weekend, more than 300 people were brought to safety aboard the Responder search and rescue boat – part of a joint operation between the Italian Red Cross and independent charity Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).
“Our team at sea helped to save more than 300 people who could so easily have faced the same fate as those that perished in Lampedusa,” said Rocca, who is also Vice President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“While people are still forced into the water in search of safety, the world is failing in its duty to protect those escaping violence, poverty and persecution.”