The Mediterranean Sea the Sole Witness: The Story of Ons


Rome (NEV), March 26th, 2019 –The “Lo sguardo dalle frontiere” (A Look from the Border) editorial is written by the operators of Mediterranean Hope (MH), the project promoted by the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). This week’s “Look” comes from the Observatory in Lampedusa.

The Mare Jonio vessel has just entered the port of Lampedusa and the 50 people on board have finally landed Italy. The fatigue on their faces is attenuated only by the joy at the end of this crossing. Thanks to the courage of Mediterranea Saving Humans they did not die in the Mediterranean. A sea – the mare nostrum – made a killer by our laws, a sea full of dead people. A sea  in which we do not even know how many people perish every day.

On the Libyan coasts, waves periodically return unidentified bodies. Last February in just two weeks, the Red Crescent  found 23 unidentified bodies on the beaches of Derna, a town a few kilometres from Tobruch. Just a week ago the body of a pregnant woman and a child were found in Sabratha. Thus, the sea continues to give us the evidence of an holocaust of which it is witnessing little by little.

Thousands of them leave. They leave wearing a red shirt; they leave carrying a school report card with them. They leave singing the name of those who did not make it; they leave hoping not to die.

Also  Ons Zaouali, a 26-year-old girl from Mahdia (Tunisia) left, on Friday 17 March, from the coasts of her country of origin hoping to reach Europe. She was found dead last night, Sunday 24 March, by the Tunisian Navy on the beaches near Sfax. The boat on which she was travelling was found adrift last Friday, while the body was recovered in the waters of Ellouza, in the Sfax province, and later identified by her family in the night.

Ons, a graduate girl suffering from a cancer, had embarked in Mahdia together with her 20-year old brother, hoping to fight the disease that was consuming her. Another 9 people from the same city travelled with them, including a couple and a 4-year-old girl who are still missing. In Lampedusa we have tried to get some information about them. Family and friends had contacted us, frightened by the idea that they could have died,  but still keeping the hope of finding them safe and sound. Instead they drowned in the silence of the sea and under the indifference of Europe.

The Central Mediterranean sea is the most death-dealing migration route in the world. According to the Missing Migrants project of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), over the last years this route has been the most used to arrive in Europe. And, over the last 5 years,  those who perished or are missing in an attempt to cross the Central Mediterranean sea would be more than 15,000. Nearly 10 deaths a day.

Although in Italy in 2019 landings have decreased, 160 deaths have been ascertained since the beginning of the year, many more could be those for whom we have no news. Reading the statistics of the Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI), from September to today 8% of those who have left are dead or missing.

There are no safe sea routes when boats are unfit for travelling and passengers are inexperienced sailors. Not only do those who undertake sea journeys starting from the most distant Libyan coasts risk their lives, but all those forced to cross our borders in this way. Faced with this massacre, we strongly reiterate the request to suspend the criminalization campaign against NGOs and again we claim for the opening of legal and safe entry channels that allow those who today risk their life at sea to safely reach Europe. Because only we can prevent the sea from continuing to kill.