In the early spring of 2011, in the middle of the conflict in Libya, 72 desperate sub-Saharan men, women and children tried to get to Lampedusa. Instead, they were left to die in a small, overcrowded inflatable rubber dinghy as their calls for help went unheeded. When things first started to go wrong and fuel and food supplies were dwindling, a call was made from a satellite phone to Father Zerai, a contact person whose number they had been given in case of an emergency and who subsequently notified the Italian coast guard. By that time, the boat was drifting with little fuel left and taking in water. The phone call enabled the Italian coast guard to establish the boat’s location. A helicopter was sent to drop some drinking water and food.
The boat was now drifting in the middle of the Mediterranean. Rough waters threw some people overboard and currents sent the boat back to Libya. Fishing boats in the vicinity ignored the vessel. On the 5th day at sea, people started dying onboard. A large military vessel also failed to assist. On the 15th day, only 11 people were still alive. On April 10th, the boat stranded on the Libyan coast. The 11 survivors were arrested. One died in custody due to lack of care.
Here’s an animated map depicting the events:
Those who ignored the boat could possibly be facing judicial action.