Survivor Tells Story of Boat Tragedy at Lampedusa

“Lampedusa boat tragedy: a survivor’s story,” by Zed Nelson for the Guardian:

At 2am on 3 October last year, an overcrowded fishing boat drifted less than half a mile off the Italian island of Lampedusa. For the 518 people packed on board, the twinkling lights of the island signified the end of a long and difficult journey. Each had paid $1,600 (£964) to make the crossing.

With land in sight, they stirred and began excitedly to prepare for their arrival in Europe, dressing in their best clothes and gathering their few possessions in plastic bags. After 36 hours of clattering diesel engine, there was silence. The only sound was the slap of waves against the old wooden hull. The captains of migrant vessels such as this often cut the engines within sight of land and wait for the Italian coastguard to tow them in. This allows the crew to disappear into the crowd and avoid arrest for people-smuggling.

On the upper deck, exposed to the cool night air, people wrapped themselves in blankets. Some smoked and gazed at the distant lights, imagining a new life in Europe. Below deck it was overcrowded and hot, with too many seasick passengers crammed into the confined space…

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