"Dying of hope": the names and stories of migrants who died during their travel to Europe were commemorated during a Prayer Vigil in Santa Maria in Trastevere
Rome, 17 June 2011
Thousands of people crowded the basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome yesterday, for the memory of those who, in the "journeys of hope" towards Europe, have lost their lives.
Names and stories of men and women, often very young, of children with their mothers, killed by the waters of the Mediterranean, or in the aircrafts gear, or even in containers on trucks crossing the borders on land.
The list of names, accompanied by lighting up of candles, touches the hearts of those present, including some relatives of victims and a group of recently arrived refugees from North Africa, being hosted in Civitavecchia.
The prayer vigil was organized on the occasion of World Refugee Day 2011 by the Community of Sant'Egidio, the Astalli Centre Association, the Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy, the Fondazione Migrantes, Italian Caritas and ACLI. Presided by Msgr. Antonio Maria Vegliò, President of the Pontifical Council of Pastoral care for Migrants and Itinerant, saw the participation of ecumenical representatives.
Since 1990 at least 17,597 people died on the journey along the borders of Europe.
The change in geopolitical situation that is affecting countries of North Africa and in particular the conflict in Libya, have led many people to embark on the dangerous sea crossings. In this context, data from the first 5 months of 2011 are alarming: There are already 1,820 deaths around the Mediterranean, of which 1633 are traveling to Italy. The resume is probably more tragic when you consider how many were on board the boats of which there was no longer news, and have never managed to reach our shores.
Two main routes from which are originated the flows of migrants by sea since the beginning of 2011: Tunisia and Libya.
187 people drowned on the route of Tunisia, whereas the Libyan route raises greater concern and recorded during the period considered, the death at sea of 1633 sub-Saharan migrants (data Fortress Europe). The condition of those coming from Libya in war is extremely vulnerable: threatened by all the warring parties are forced to undertake the crossing on weak and overloaded boats in order to reach a safe haven in Europe.
Faced with this data we can not remain silent. These are men, women and children fleeing situations of conflict, serious human rights violations and persecution. Looking for a safe place, they have instead gone towards death. The Prayer "Dying of Hope" was born thinking about each of them. Even one of these lives lost at sea on a journey of pain and despair is a defeat for all, that can not and must not leave anyone indifferent.
These deaths are a reminder to responsibility, for looking at the reality of migration always putting in the foreground everyone's life and full respect for human rights.
Even in this event, sponsoring organizations are calling on the international community and institutions to proceed to the urgent opening of humanitarian channels and guarantees the transfer of people to safe places. Only a joint effort in this direction can allow people on the run not to risk their lives at sea.