The transfer of some migrants from Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/DOMENICO TROVATO
The transfer of some migrants from Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle | Photo: ARCHIVE/ANSA/DOMENICO TROVATO

"There are two things we cannot choose: life and death," said Ibrahim, a survivor of a shipwreck in the Mediterranean that claimed the lives of his wife and brother. The Ivorian national was transered to a migrant hotspot in Lampedusa.

"It was fate, fate. The will of God," Ibrahim, 24, said. The Ivorian national now at a hotspot on the Italian island of Lampedusa did not get off a cot or eat for two days.

He had lost his wife, a brother and a friend when the small boat on which he was travelling along with about 30 other people sunk three days before.

When he finally got up, still under shock, he tried to comfort a fellow Ivorian a few years younger than himself who had seen a friend he had been travelling with flail among the waves and lose his life.

"There are two things we cannot choose: life and death," he repeated multiple times, trying to shore up the morale of those around him.

"Those who are stronger help themselves by helping others," said Doctors Without Borders (MSF) team leader Marina Castellano. MSF is providing psychological support at the hotspot to the survivors of wrecks and deadly incidents at sea.

Pain of death at sea

Ibrahim lost his wife and brother. He tried to save both but saw them disappear among the waves.

"I did not know who to help first," he said. "Both were torn away from my hands. I tried to keep others afloat, I saved them. But I did not manage with them. I didn't manage."

Echoing his words were his fellow Ivorian, 22.

"I continue to see them as they flail about in the water. I try to grab onto them before I see them disappear. But it is all useless,' he said.

The MSF team provides psychological support also to migrants who were on the same boat where twins that had been just under a month old died.

"They did not even realize what was happening. They were all crowded together and no one realized it," Castellano said.

"It was only when they arrived at the Favarolo wharf and they saw their mother cry and scream, and the four-year-old brother of the little girls, that they understood."

Meanwhile, the children that were on the boat, assisted by Save the Children, run about and hug their mothers in the square in front of the center for initial reception.

Local youths on the island sent about 30 drawings of boats with a person inside and messages of peace, brotherhood, and support to the children hosted at the hotspot.

Fight against traffickers

On Thursday (October 27) the acting head prosecutor of Agrigento, Salvatore Vella, arrived on Lampedusa for a meeting with security forces and rescue workers.

"The aim," he stressed, "is to capture the traffickers, the smugglers. What we are asking is for more interpreters for the police forces. They are necessary to understand what crimes were committed and to capture those allegedly responsible. Otherwise we are blind and deaf."

The prosecutor, as requested by mayor Filippo Mannino, has also speeded up the transfer of corpses that have been piled up for days in the morgue on the island. In the evening, four were loaded alongside about 500 migrants hosted by the hotspot on the Pietro Novelli ferry.

While the coffins were being loaded onto the vessel, two more corpses arrived: first one of a man and then one of a woman, both of which had just been recovered from the see after the wreck of yet another boat carrying migrants. In this case, 31 were rescued but one is still missing.


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