Dying in the desert

Published: September 4, 2010 at 12:28pm

After Libya reached agreement with Italy and suddenly there were no immigrants reaching Malta or Lampedusa, I began to wonder about their fate. The flow of immigrants into Libya hasn’t stopped, so what is Libya doing to prevent them leaving its borders by sea?

Whatever that is, it cannot be anything other than immensely cruel. Libya is certainly not housing them within its borders or paying for safe transit back to countries of origin.

What shocks me most, though, is the total lack of concern manifested by Malta and Italy, both of which have adopted a ‘stop them coming here at all costs’ attitude. There seems to be no attempt at enquiring into the fate of all those people who are NOT coming here anymore. If we knew that Libya was stopping them by killing them, would we be as complacent?

47 Comments Comment

  1. James Grech says:

    This is being done with TONIO BORG and LAWRENCE GONZI’s tacit consent…. and also Labour’s silence, well worse than silence in fact since they proposed withdrawal from international conventions…

  2. John Doe says:

    Dear Mrs Caruana Galizia,

    While I enjoy reading many of your posts, I cannot understand your stance on illegal immigration. As a journalist it is easy for you to take the moral high ground and denounce these alleged events but then again, it is so much easier to do that than come up with realistic solutions to this problem.

    [Daphne – I am always surprised at the way so many Maltese people, unaccustomed to the proper function of the media in a democracy (because this is a relatively new thing for us), fail to distinguish between the role of politicians and the role of journalists. The two are not interchangeable, and I suppose it doesn’t help the confusion that propagandists who work for the party machines are described by all as ‘journalists’ when they are patently nothing of the sort. It is not my role to come up with solutions. It is my role to help expose the problems and raise awareness about them, so that people like you can jerk, with a great sucking noise, their heads out of the sand.]

    I compare journalists to unions, and political leaders (the real ones at least) to management. Unions will normally have quite valid points especially if one considers the viewpoint of their members but in reality, only management can decide on realistic solutions to these issues, that will not destroy the organisation in the process.

    This video purportedly shows seven dead bodies in the Libyan desert some time in March 2009. We do not have any proof if this was actually linked to illegal immigration towards Europe at all. And as much as the loss of seven lives is a terrible thing, how many more lives have been lost during the sea crossing?

    Therefore Mrs Caruana Galizia, could you please answer the following questions in your usual, straight-talking style.

    1. Do you agree that an uncontrolled immigration from Africa to Europe will have a devastating economic and cultural impact and the lifestyle we have become accustomed too?

    [Daphne – There is no prospect of uncontrolled immigration. It is highly controlled. I do not trade in right-wing extremist fantasies as to what ‘might happen if’.]

    2. Would you welcome just one family of recently expelled Roma’s to camp in your property in Bidnija?

    [Daphne – How does this follow, exactly? It is a favourite argument of Norman Lowell’s extremists and others who think as they do but believe themselves to be more ‘normal’: there is a distinction between public and private, between the state and the individual. The fact that I object to France’s ill-treatment of Roma does not mean I should be obliged to house a family at my own personal expense. The personal argument only comes into play when one is actually forced to make personal choices of conscience. The clearest example of this – the one with which we in Europe are most familiar – is the actions during World War II of those who helped hide Jewish families and take them to safety. In that case, objecting would have achieved nothing: all would have been killed. But sheltering them achieved a great deal, even if at terrible risk.]

    3. What are your solutions to illegal immigration from Africa to Europe keeping in mind the financial difficulties that the continent is going through?

    [Daphne – Oh, let me see now: why I don’t I pontificate about this and solve the world’s ills.]

    I would expected a straight yes/no answer for at least questions 1 and 2.

    [Daphne – That’s because you’re not very bright.]

    • Hot Mama says:

      John Doe, JRS – the Jesuit Refugee Service have well documented resources of what happens to illegal immigrants in Libya. But then you strike me as someone who doesn’t give a toss

  3. Red nose says:

    What a tragedy! I am sure that Jesus in Heaven has shed a tear! Although the thing is really touching, yet I note that not one decomposed body could be seen in this clip. Also, while filming there was a man walking about as if he enjoyed being filmed – perhaps he was one of the Espresso troupe? I might be wrong but I note that one “dead” body, seems to be smiling!

  4. Evelyn says:

    How shocking! What a cruel world we live in, no compassion whatsoever.

  5. These poor human beings are also victims of war – wars from which they are trying to escape. Something anyone in his or her right mind would do. Wars that are the direct consequence of unbridled lust for money and power.

    I wonder what the smart mouths among us would say in the face of such tragedy.

    • Elaine says:

      Don’t think I am a smart mouth, but I once read a quote that I will never forget. It said, ‘If you don’t fight for your country’s freedom and democracy, then you do not deserve it.’

  6. M. says:

    This is so very sad and shocking. It should be made compulsory viewing for all those with anti-(black)immigrant tendencies.

  7. Min Weber says:

    The video is very obviously anti-Berlusconi propaganda.

    The real problem is not Berlusconi, but European neocolonial policies in Africa.

    Why are weapons still be sold to Africans?

    Why are trade practices still being following which impoverish these peoples?

    If Africa were self-sustainable, there would be no need for migration.

    L’Espresso should focus on the causes of migration, not on the symptoms.

    • H.P. Baxxter says:

      Ahem. How many “European” weapons do you see in the hands of African militias? A few G3s perhaps. Half a dozen FN FALs. But the vast majority are Chinese clones of Soviet weapons. Type 56 rifles and so on. And machetes don’t require an end user certificate.

      There is no European neocolonial policy in Africa. And if European businesses were to invest in Africa, you would be denouncing it as European neocolonialism. So we’re damned if we do, and damned if we don’t.

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        If he’s referring to legal contracts for weapons systems, then sales by G8 countries have dwindled to a trickle in the last few years. Most African countries are buying Chinese stuff, or re-servicing Soviet equipment to give it extend its operational lifespan.

        Regarding neocolonialism, you provided two links, one of which provides a dictionary definition of the term. The other is complete hogwash. Let me ask you. Economic aid to Africa used to be free. Now we’re talking of making African governments accountable, and linking that aid to greater transparency. In other words, the “richer” nations are asking for something in return for their aid. Is that neocolonialism?

        We could also look at the other angle. During the colonial period, European nations poured more money into Africa than they got out of it. This is beyond dispute, and the figures are there. Sounds very much like the situation today. With the difference that African countries can now govern themselves. Where, then, is this new colonialism?

        Stop blaming Europe for Africa’s ills. We’re crying wolf too often. Then on the few occasion when it is right to criticise Europe, the message is ignored because the airwaves are already saturated with Euro self-flagellation.

        This of course bears no relation to the terrible deaths shown in the video, but seeing as we’ve gone off on the usual tangent, I had to respond.

      • Min Weber says:

        You’re right. We’ve gone at a tangent, but a relevant one nonetheless.

        You said:

        “During the colonial period, European nations poured more money into Africa than they got out of it. This is beyond dispute, and the figures are there. Sounds very much like the situation today. With the difference that African countries can now govern themselves. Where, then, is this new colonialism?”

        I think the self-contradiction is self-evident here. If it “sounds very much like the situation today” then you are confirming that there is neocolonialism.

        Neo, as you know, means “new”.

      • Min Weber says:

        Culled from the comment submitted by someone who claims to work in Africa (see blow, A. nonymous):

        “Rampant corruption and the propping up of the majority of regimes by certain European governments and conglomerates also does not help Africa’s cause.”

        Need any more proof of neocolonialism in Africa?

      • H.P. Baxxter says:

        Culled from my own brain:

        “And what are European governments supposed to do? Invade those countries and do some “régime change”? Propped up, propped up. Of course they’re propped up. Those corrupt dictators have either been elected or are supported by their people. So European nations naturally maintain diplomatic relations and recognise those governments. Translated as “propping up”. Any interference by Western nations is seen as (neo-)colonialism. Then let Africa run itself, I say. Africans are as intelligent as any other people on earth, and they are quite capable of building prosperity and peace.”

        I mean really, Weber. Do you really go to sleep at night with a feeling of guilt over Africa’s woes? Mind you, I used to, when I was about six or seven and the world was awash in footage of starving Ethiopian children.

        Then I grew up and was made to feel guilty, respectively, of the suffering of the Palestinians, of the massacres of World War II, of the plight of the Bosnian Muslims, of Rwanda, of Kosovo, of the Karen, of the Tamils, of the Burmese, of Afghans, until one guilt feeling cancelled the next one and I came back where I started: feeling guilty for not providing for my family. And wonder whether death by starvation is better than being the underprivileged your whole life.

        So cheer up Weber. I don’t mean this in a facetious way. Cheer up everyone. Let me be the first to say that I have never killed or aided in the killing or oppression of a single African, neither has the life that I have lived contributed to any of these horrors.

      • Min Weber says:

        No, dear Baxxter. It’s not a matter of feeling guilty.

        My point is that L’Espresso ought to concentrate on real issues. For instance, it could attack Berlusconi on his policy vis-a’-vis neocolonial interventions in Africa, if he has such a policy.

        That would make sense.

        Not espousing a line of action which implies opening Europe to more African immigration.

  8. Mark-Anthony Falzon says:

    If I may plug my column here, tomorrow’s (Sunday 5 September) deals with this serious issue.

    [Daphne – Here’s the link: http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20100905/opinion/dracula-in-charge-of-a-blood-bank ]

  9. Chris says:

    Malta and Italy do NOT want to know. We’re quite content to bury our heads in the sand. If we don’t know about any of the attrocities, we are not morally obliged to do anything about them.

  10. Anna says:

    Out of context but you must see this, i.e before you lie down and weep.
    Comment underneath Motorcyclist Injured on timesofmalta.com:

    Anthony Ellul(1 hour, 9 minutes ago)
    Because of the new surface road,many drivers don’t know how to drive on a new road,they speed up so that they pass the road in a few seconds,I see many drivers broken the speed limits which is 60 km/hr ,sometimes I think that they want in emercency use the toilet,before the repair of the road,happened many accidents,now it is not the cause of minimize the side of the new road,but because of their carless.they want to arrive to the destination earlier but they found that they never arrived.Min jimxi bil-mod,jasal Kmieni

  11. eros says:

    This is a truly disturbing video.

    Surely there must be some international human rights group which follows such news, and to uncover the truth about Libya’s action plans.

    [Daphne – Amnesty International and other human rights groups have been trying to raise awareness for the last year or so. Their reports barely get coverage in the media.]

    I was wondering why Gaddafi would want 5 billion dollars every year – now it looks as if it is to have enough soldiers on the rounds to send back the would-be immigrants into the desert, towards a certain death.

    And is the EU happy with this solution, as long as they are kept off the European coast? Shameful all around.

    • Le Redoute says:

      So Gaddafi ‘needs’ 5 billions dollars from Europe?

      Did he also ‘need’ the money paid in compensation to the families of Lockerbie victims?

      It’s called blackmail: If I don’t get a deal on oil supplies you don’t get a deal on immigration. You couldn’t have failed to notice that immigration slowed to a trickle and then a stop once Berlusconi & co struck a deal with Libya.

  12. jose' manuel herrera (based in Valparaiso) says:

    Truly shocking. I wonder what what Maltese parliamentarians have to say about this. Undoubtedly all the Bible-bashing politicians who were on the frontline to meet the Pope will remain silent.

  13. Proset Daphne. I do not always agree with you especially your hardliner PN stand.

    However your consistency against all odds on issues like these is admirable. Keep it up.

  14. david says:

    I’m sure some Christians will look the other way. “L-aqwa li ma hadulniex xogholna!”

    Bizzejjed naghtu xi haga ghall-missjoni! Shame!

    Thanks for the video link. Stuff we don’t question enough in this country.

  15. Anthony says:

    The Africa problem is as old as the hills.

    The film is shocking but pales into insignificance when compared to other African tragedies.

    Sixteen years ago, 800,000 people were massacred in one hundred days in the Rwandan genocide.

    The Espresso’s pathetic attempt to put the problem at Berlusconi’s doorstep is deplorable.

    The problem has to be tackled by the Africans themselves (with outside help) at its roots. It will take centuries to sort out.

    I repeat, the scenes are shattering but whatever we do, both individually and as a country, will not make one iota of difference to the plight of our African brothers and sisters.

    This is very depressing.

    Fortunately RAI 1 saved the day. The Rigoletto (Act1) from Mantova was out of this world. Domingo is Domingo, 70 years old and recovering from a hemicolectomy for colon cancer, but the performance of this young Russian, Novikova, was formidable.

    She has it all. Youth, beauty and extraordinary talent. If anyone is not fully convinced I recommend her Fruhlingstimmen on youtube. For 23 years Kathleen Battle’s rendering was the benchmark. Now it is Julia Novikova’s.

    May God bless her.

  16. jerry says:

    Veru ahna ma nifilhux aktar dhul ta’ immigranti llegali imma dan il-video tal-biza.

  17. Terry Gosden says:


    This is exactly what us so-called liberal leftist feared the most. There are many as yet unconfirmed reports coming out of Libya.

    It seems sickly ironic that we let Frontex and Gaddafi effectively do our killing for us. When the boats were coming in thousands lost their lives at sea. We knew that but were able to do little to stop the slaughter. But they had a chance, be it a slim one.

    In the name of humanity, people should see this.

    How so very sad,


  18. Mark-Anthony Falzon says:

    Thank You for posting the link. I wouldn’t normally have abused your blog like this but this is a real humanitarian disaster in the making. Forget ‘l-iskandlu ta’ Nikki Dimech’ and all the rest.

    [Daphne – My pleasure. I would have posted the link anyway.]

  19. Loredana Gatt says:

    And the solutions is? What should Malta and Italy do about it in your opionion? Open the doors to illegal immigration from Africa?

    Have Gheddafi get money from the rest of Africa promising a paradise in Europe where in fact there is hardly enough work for the Europeans. Malta shoos them off to Italy anyway where they live like animals simply because the refugee camps are full (apart from the fact that many of these do not qualify as refugees anyway).

    It is sad that there are human beings suffering in this way just because they happen to have been born on the wrong side of the earth but I cannot understand how Africa’s dire situation has become Italy and Malta’s problem.

    I would assume that word will soon get around the African sub-continent that the crossing is impossible which will in turn discourage them to pay all their lives savings to embark upon it and hopefully put an end to the racket and their exploitation.

    • Le Redoute says:

      There’s plenty Malta and Italy SHOULDN’T do about it. Turning a blind eye to the consequences of political decisions is one of them.

  20. Line Cert says:

    “And the solutions is? What should Malta and Italy do about it in your opionion? Open the doors to illegal immigration from Africa? ”

    YES !

    • Loredana says:

      @Line Cert – where do live? Let me guess …… IN MALTA – where as I said illegal immigrants are politely asked to pass on over to Italy.

      You of course have no idea what you’re talking about.

  21. Red nose says:

    First: I am sure the asylum seekers are after Europe and I am sure that none of these really know that there is tiny Malta in between:

    Second: I still doubt the authenticity of that video. I think it is an Espresso creation; unless the filming was done a few moments after these “bodies” were left to die in the desert.

    Three: I feel that one should be entitled to have doubts when these seekers are provided with mobile phones, numbers to contact the co-ordination centres in Rome etc.

    • Le Redoute says:

      The video story’s plausible. That alone should tell you what you need to know – and I’m not talking about L’Espresso’s reliability.

  22. pippo says:

    Veru il-video huma ta’ stmerrija, imma ejjew l-ahwa nirragunaw jekk nafu nirragunaw.

    Dawn in-nies jahharbu minn pajjizhom minhabba il-konflitti. Ahna Malta meta kien hawn il-konflitti hrabna u morna ta’ piz gewwa pajjizi ohra jew bqajna hawn Malta niggieldu sakemm is-sewwa rebah?

    Kellna problema ta’ xoghol u qaghad u guh izda ma morniex ta’ piz go pajjizi ohra. Emigrajna legalment go pajjizi li kienu iffitxu l-emigranti, u ma morniex biex naghmlu il-kriminalita bhalma qed issir hawn Malta jew go l-Ewropa minn immigranti Afrikani.

    Gaddafi irrid 5 billjuni. Ahjar il-billjuni l-Ewropa izzommhom biex tohloq ix-xoghol ghac-ciddadini taghha mela tmur ittieghom lil Gaddafi ghax qieghed jeddidna bl-immigranti. Jekk ma jridx immigranti go pajjizu immissu jaghmel bhalma naghmlu ahna il-Maltin meta jigu minghajt dokumenti.

    Skuzawni li ma tantx kont sabih fi kliemi imma xi haga irrid isir ghax jien zgur mhux ser inhalli li jsir bhalma qal l-gharef Gaddafi li l-Ewropa issir Musulmana.

    Wara kollox wahda nghid, li Kristu meta dahlu go tempju tieghu li kienet id-dar t’ Alla ma qghadx jilghaqillhom saqajjhom izda beda jkisser kollox u sawwathom.

    Mela ejjew u inkunu daqxejn saqajna fis-sod mhux kullhadt jeqred li dawn in-nies huma msieken izda hadt ma jridhom go daru hlief biex ihaddimhom bi ftit flus

  23. A. nonymous says:

    Hi Daphne

    I cannot leave my name for reasons of work, however this a very common occurrence. Once when we came across 15 dessicated corpses during a survey, the authorities were informed and they casually stated “Don’t worry, food for the dogs”. The bodies had been scavenged already. I still have the photos, which are not pleasant.

  24. A. nonymous says:

    Rampant corruption and the propping up of the majority of regimes by certain European governments and conglomerates also does not help Africa’s cause.

    The continent is so rich and diverse it could be a working and living paradise.

    Population growth is a real problem affecting Africa, certain religions are driving this

    (For everybody’s benefit, I have worked in over 20 so-called dodgy African countries and am currently working in one!)

  25. Joseph Cauchi says:

    This is really a shocking video!

    However, can one really take for granted the veracity and the authenticity of these contents?

    I do question the motive of the L’Espresso group as it is quite public knowledge in Italy where its political leanings are and its known hostility towards Italy’s Premier Silvio Berlusconi; and therefore the L’Espresso group will not hesitate for a moment to grab any opportunity that comes along to harm Berlusconi’s image!

    We should put everything in perspective and take everything with a pinch of salt.

    In Maltese we have a saying that “Li tara emmen nofs, u li tisma’ t’emmen xejn” (what you see, believe half and what you hear, believe none)!

    I am really surprised how certain “intelligent” people are so easily prone to succumb to certain cheap political propaganda and believe everything such news media dish out!


    • M. says:

      Political propoganda it may be. Fine.

      There’s no denying, however, the fact that those poor people were trying to escape to a better life before ending up dead in that awful way – probably starved, dehydrated and suffering from exposure in the severe desert heat. I wouldn’t want to see an animal end up that way, let alone other humanbeings.

    • Le Redoute says:

      What are you suggesting? That L’Espresso staged the whole things, complete with corpses?

      Berlusconi has no need of L’Espresso’s help in harming his own image. He does a very good job of that himself. His dirty deal with Libya is only one instance among many but must rank among the worst for its tragic consequences.

  26. Brian says:

    Read this somewhere on the world wide web some time back. I will leave it up to you to evaluate the pros and cons.

    Illegal Immigration: Pros

    According to some people, groups and scholars, following are the pros of illegal immigration.
    The economy is balanced as the demand for the low wage laborers is always fulfilled.
    The life conditions of poor immigrants improves thus, providing them the freedom to life and liberty.
    Various spheres of market open up for customers of diverse income ranges.
    Illegal immigrants contribute to the tax system by paying sales taxes.
    Illegal immigrants who possess real estate properties, pay real estate taxes.
    Agents and brokers generate commission from the real estate deals with the immigrants.
    Illegal immigrants also enjoy the banking services of the country and so they pay interests and dividends to the banks.
    Financial loans and auto insurance loans contribute to the country’s income.

    Illegal Immigration: Cons

    Here is what people opposed to illegal immigration say about various illegal immigration problems.
    Judicial problems, in case if immigrants commit a crime and escape the country.
    Overcrowding and increased burden on public transport, parks and places of public interest.
    Increased crime rate among the population.
    Problems related to financial burdens on schools.
    Concerns of unbalanced ethnic diversity, leading to the dominance of one language or culture.
    Increased risk of cases related to human trafficking.
    Increasing population causing burden on the country.
    As we can see, the ‘illegal immigrants: pros and cons’ both are justified when viewed relatively. So, where to demarcate the line for the illegal migrations? There is world of difference between legal and illegal immigration. Legal immigrants who completely adhere to the rules of the law, are entitled full liberty to pursue their dreams. However, the complexity related to illegal immigrants is immense. No doubts, the immigrants are worthy of sympathy, love and compassion, as most of them immigrate solely to get rid of the shackles of poverty and unemployment. Finding new havens of settlements, that can feed a family is an inherent nature of human species however, conflicts arise when the country’s socio-economic balance and laws come under serious threat. While sympathy and concern for others are essential, laws and rules can’t be taken for granted.

  27. Red nose says:

    How long does a dead body in the desert heat take to decompose?

  28. Adam says:

    This video is obviously a hoax. What is the first thing a dying person in the middle of the Sahara does? Strip naked is the answer.

    I wonder for how much money did this group of young immigrants settle to stage the gruesome scene for the Italian journalist that obviously needs to come up with a story.

    Don’t be fooled. It is a setup. If anything it might help in discouraging future immigrants to try the leap of faith.

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