Sprawled out on his back and battered by waves on the shoreline, the body of a migrant who tried to flee Africa for a new life in Europe lies washed up on a Libyan beach. The gruesome discovery was made on the shore of al-Qarboli, east of Tripoli days after the trawler he is thought to have been travelling on sank off the Libyan coast claiming at least 17 lives. The sinking, which has so far led to two arrests, comes amid claims hundreds of thousands more would-be illegal immigrants are preparing to set sail for southern Italy.
The body, which has not yet been identified, is one of 17 so far recovered while 206 people were rescued by patrol boats and merchant ships from the wreck in international waters between Libya and Italy. Italian media have cited coastguards as saying there were around 400 people on board, which would mean dozens are still unaccounted for. Survivors include two Eritrean children who lost their parents and siblings. Italian authorities have now detained two Tunisians suspected of smuggling migrants aboard the boat having arrested them on suspicion of murder. Italy, with its southernmost island, Lampedusa, just 70 km off the coast of Africa, is the first port of call for many seeking a new life in Europe.
Now the country has threatened to send asylum-seekers across Europe without more help to stem the tide of arrivals. So far this year more than 36,000 migrants have arrived by boat on Italy’s shores, with authorities warning the rate is even faster than the record number of 2011 during the Arab Spring. Migrant traffickers often mix with their passengers only to abandon them when accomplices in speedboats arrive to return the smugglers to base. Italian intelligence says that another 800,000 would-be migrants are on the African coastline ready to set sail.