A year ago on Friday, when a boat carrying hundreds of mostly Eritrean migrants capsized just feet away from the Italian coast, killing at least 366 people, Italian authorities who came to the rescue of the few survivors swore “never again.”
But last year’s tragedy, which a group is now pushing to memorialize by making October 3 an international day of remembrance, was hardly the first such incident, and it was not the last one. Just three weeks ago, up to 500 migrants, including 100 children, died trying to reach Italy — reportedly after their smugglers deliberately sunk the boat, following a confrontation onboard.
Since January, more than 3,000 people have drowned in the Mediterranean, many near the coast of Lampedusa, a tiny Italian island just 185 miles north of Tripoli, and this, despite a rescue operation Italy set up following last October’s tragedy.
In less than a year, the rescue operation “Mare Nostrum” — Latin for “our sea” — has brought more than 91,000 people safely to shore.
“A year ago, on October 3, all those people died at 200 meters from Lampedusa, they had basically arrived,” Gabriele Del Grande, a migration activist and author of the blog “Fortress Europe,” told VICE News. “That shipwreck caused a public opinion scandal. Not because it was so big — it wasn’t the first or the biggest one — but because for the first time people saw the bodies.”