A survivor arrives in Pozzallo port after the shipwreck off the Libyan coast on March 13, 2023 | Photo: ANSA/Francesca Ruta
A survivor arrives in Pozzallo port after the shipwreck off the Libyan coast on March 13, 2023 | Photo: ANSA/Francesca Ruta

The migrants who survived the recent shipwreck off Libya spent three days at sea without food or water, according to Doctors Without Borders. The organization shared the stories of survivors to whom they provided psychological support.

When the survivors of a shipwreck off Libya arrived in Pozzallo, in the southern Italian region of Sicily, on Monday (March 13), they desperately wanted to call their families, the organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said in a recent statement.

When MSF workers gave them a cellphone, "we heard the screams of joy of their mothers and their fathers at the other end of the telephone lines," Marina Castellano, team leader of the MSF squad in Pozzallo, recounted. "After having learned about the shipwreck through social media and messages, they were convinced that their children had died. It was a very emotional moment."

Migrants left from eastern Libya

In the latest tragic shipwreck in the Central Mediterranean, at least 30 migrants died. 17 people however were rescued by a cargoship, and later transferred onto an Italian coast guard ship, which brought them to Pozzallo.

The survivors said they departed from Tobruk, in eastern Libya, on March 8 -- three days before the shipwreck, according to MSF.

At the hotspot in Pozzallo, MSF reportedly provided 15 of the survivors with emergency psychological support, which lasted until Wednesday (March 15). The other two needed to be hospitalized.

"Despite the fact our intervention, the aim of which is to provide psychological support in the hours immediately following shipwrecks and incidents at sea, has concluded, we hope that these people can soon receive adequate care and begin to imagine a new future as soon as possible," MSF said in a statement.

No food or water on the boat

When MSF talked to them about what happened, the migrants had very confused memories and were unable to recall whether some of their travel companions died even before the boat capsized -- since they had not had food or water for days, the organization said. Survivor Siful -- who was hospitalized and thus not among the MSF patients at the hotspot -- also told InfoMigrants' partner ANSA that "when traffickers made us board, they told us there would be water and food [on the boat but] it wasn't true."

The survivors MSF talked to reportedly also faced abuse in Libya prior to the crossing. The organization said that they had all been imprisoned in a dark room for two months before their boat departed.

"One day they came to get us. They covered our heads and took us to the beach. They pointed rifles at us and made us get on the boat," MSF recounted survivors saying. "After a few days of sailing the engine stopped working and we drifted for a day and a night. The boat capsized due to the rough seas and thus we ended up in the water."

The survivors lost friends and family

"We survived because we managed to grab onto the keel of the boat. All the others were swept away by the current. I was stuck under the boat and I ended up swallowing a lot of water," one of the survivors reportedly told an MSF psychologist and intercultural mediator who assisted them at the Pozzallo hotspot.

The migrants MSF spoke to, the organization said, all come from the same village in Bangladesh and are between the ages of 18 and 25. The migrants reportedly all lost friends, aquaintances or family in the shipwreck. One young man told MSF that he lost his uncle and cousin.


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