'No one came to help us': Only eleven migrants survived boat capsizing in one of Ionian Sea's worst disasters

18 June 2024, 23:09 | Updated: 19 June 2024, 02:38

The waters of the Ionian Sea seem tranquil enough in the middle of June, but they also form part of the most dangerous migration route in the world.

The shoreline of southern Italy, with its position in the central Mediterranean, is the primary objective of many who put to sea.

Yet the boats used by migrants are often unseaworthy and the smugglers they pay are untrustworthy - and so it has proven off the coast of Italy's Calabria region.

Some 120 miles from the port of Roccella Ionica, the Italian coast guard caught site of simple sailboat, a recreational vessel with a single mast barely peaking above the water.

Leaving Turkey eight days earlier, it was packed with 76 people, including more than 70 migrants from Iraq, Iran and Syria.

But something had gone terribly wrong,

Red Cross officials in southern Italy said only 11 people survived, among them a pregnant woman and two children. It was clear these individuals had suffered greatly at sea.

"Well, 11 migrants who arrived here have multiple fractures, severe dehydration, severe bruises from what they say," said Concetta Gioffrè of the regional Italian Red Cross.

"They were in shock, with clear signs of burns. I have no words for those who didn't reach the port."

Sky News spoke to one survivor, now being cared for in a local hospital.

Ro'ya Muheidini, a 19-year-old Iraqi Kurd, said that different smugglers had been involved in the voyage - but all the passengers had been duped.

"The smugglers told us not to bring any food because [the vessel] had everything. After that, we ran out and shared what we had. Nothing was left on the boat, no water, no food, nothing."

Ms Muheidini told us that the captain had tried to open a box or tube with provisions but there was an explosion which tore a hole in the hull.

The boat capsized, and all 76 people - including two dozen children - were thrown into the water.

"We stayed on the water for four days and no one came to help us," said the 19-year-old.

"Two or three boats passed by and they got very close. We shouted a lot for help, but they ignored us and passed by.

"If it was not for a French boat, none of us would be here."

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There seems to be little to no prospect that any of those still unaccounted for will be found alive, making this one of the worst disasters in the Ionian Sea in recorded memory.

But that is unlikely to shift public opinion in the European Union. In fact, it may go unnoticed. The politics of immigration and migration have changed in Europe.

It now requires a tougher, harsher approach, but the consequences of that will prove deadly.