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A 4-year-old girl sailed from Tunisia to Sicily on a migrant boat without parents | Italy


A four-year-old girl who was separated from her parents as they tried to board a migrant boat from Tunisia to Italy has been forced to cross the Mediterranean without them.

The girl, called Linda by Italian authorities, landed on the island of Lampedusa on October 17 after 26 hours at sea on a crowded wooden boat carrying 70 other asylum seekers from Tunisia.

The Tunisian authorities are trying to repatriate her. Her parents have received a travel ban and are accused of abandoning a minor.

“Linda is well and she is in a community center for children in Palermo, after being transferred from Lampedusa to a community in the province of Agrigento,” said Majdi Karbay, who is one of three Tunisian deputies who represent Tunisians living in Italy. “She constantly asks about her parents and when she can see them again.”

He added: “His parents are in Tunisia and the Tunisian authorities [on 26 October] imposed a travel ban on them. They would prefer to repatriate Linda, but the steps are not so simple because the young girl is under the legal protection of a local guardian.

Karbai said Linda did not understand what was going on and suffered an emotional shock.

The international NGO Save the Children supported Linda. “She is playing with other children and a psychosocial support team is helping her release her fears and pressure,” said Giovanna De Benedetto, spokesperson for Save the Children. “We look after his well-being.”

Linda and her family are from Sayada, a coastal town near Monastir in the Sahel region, 20 km south of Sousse and 162 km south of Tunis.

Due to the current political crisis and food shortages in Tunisia, her father, a street food vendor selling chapati and mlawi sandwiches in Sayada, could not earn a living and decided to leave Tunisia with his family. Linda’s seven-year-old sister suffers from heart disease and is in constant need of medical assistance. His parents hoped that in Europe the child could receive the necessary care and before leaving had prepared a folder containing his clinical records.

Migrant boats have to be reached by sea and passengers have to walk or swim to reach the ships. On October 16, as Linda’s father held her in his arms, he suddenly heard his wife scream. The woman, who accompanied their other daughter, had entered the water with luggage and was afraid of drowning before reaching the ship.

“At some point Linda’s father had to step back to support the rest of the family and so temporarily sat Linda on the boat,” says Karbai, who worked as a cultural mediator in Lampedusa in 2011 and learned the details from one of Linda’s family members. after the departure of the boat from Tunisia. “Meanwhile, the boat driver saw the big headlights of a truck and thought it was the police, so he started the engine and drove off, leaving Linda’s family behind.”

Linda’s parents declined to speak to the media. They are accused of abandoning a minor and could be accused of human trafficking. They were released from prison after news of the girl’s arrival in Lampedusa.

The Tunisian Ministry of Family, Women, Children and the Elderly said in a statement that discussions were underway with the Tunisian consular services in Palermo to repatriate the child, and that a Tunisian diplomatic delegation should meet the judge of the juvenile court of Palermo. .

On Friday, a Sicilian judge blocked the girl’s repatriation. Before making a final decision, the magistrate requests that a report be sent to Palermo on the causes of the accident and Linda’s departure without her parents.

The newly elected government in Italy led by far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy, a party with neo-fascist origins, has promised the introduction of sweeping measures to block the arrival of claimants asylum from North Africa.

North Africans are often considered “economic migrants” and are repatriated by European authorities who, despite political instability and poverty in their country, do not consider them deserving candidates for international protection. EU immigration policies are pushing thousands of people to risk their lives to take more dangerous routes to reach Europe.

The bodies of two men and two women were recovered off Lampedusa on Monday. The four people had been missing since Sunday when a boat carrying around 30 people sank 24 nautical miles south of Sicily. The body of a newborn girl was found the day before after another boat capsized off Lampione, an uninhabited islet.

Meanwhile, two NGO lifeboats carrying hundreds of asylum seekers to the central Mediterranean are set to face the first test of migration policy under Italy’s new far-right government after Rome threatened to stop them from leaving. entering Italian waters.

The Ocean Viking, flying the Norwegian flag and operated by the NGO SOS Méditerranée, has more than 200 people on board. The other ship, Humanity One, flying the German flag and run by the German charity SOS Humanity, is carrying around 180 people. Most of them left Libya on small boats. The ships have asked the Italian authorities for permission to disembark their passengers in a safe port in Sicily, but have so far received no response.

The decision whether or not to allow people on board the two NGO ships to disembark will be up to the new interior minister. The job that Matteo Salvini, who took high-profile steps to block such arrivals at Italian ports, had wanted to take over, has gone to Matteo Piantedosi, an all-party backed technocrat. Piantedosi, who said “governing migration is a priority”, sent a memo to police and port authorities on Tuesday in which he wrote that the two ships did not comply with “the rules on safety, control of borders and the fight against illegal immigration”. and that the government could ban ships from entering Italian territorial waters.

Nearly 20,000 people have died or gone missing since 2014 in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous passage to Europe and one of the deadliest borders in the world.



theguardian Gt

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