PALERMO, Sicily — Fifteen Muslim migrants have been arrested on charges that they threw a dozen Christians off a boat to drown in the Mediterranean sea.
On Tuesday, 105 passengers boarded a rubber boat to travel from Libya to Italy, where they were seeking asylum as refugees. However, during the journey, Muslims aboard became agitated when they learned that some passengers professed the Christian faith.
The Muslims, who are from Mali, Guinea, Senegal and the Ivory Coast, threatened to abandon the Christians. They later followed through with their threats and began seizing the Christian passengers and throwing them into the Mediterranean Sea. Some Christians formed a human chain in an attempt to fight for their lives.
An estimated 12 Christians, who were from Nigeria and Ghana, were thrown off the boat and are feared dead.
The boat was later intercepted by an Italian Navy vessel, which transferred the remaining passengers. The Christian survivors told police that they had faced a “dreadful” journey in “forcefully resisting attempts to drown them, forming a veritable human chain in some cases.”
After docking in Palermo, 15 Muslims who had been aboard were arrested on charges of “multiple aggravated murder motivated by religious hate.” Sicilian police state that the motive for the crime was that some passengers “professed the Christian faith while the aggressors were Muslim.”
Another 41 people are missing in a separate incident.
According to reports, there has been an enormous influx of refugees in recent weeks as thousands from the Middle East and Africa have been flocking to Italy in an attempt to escape war and poverty, as well as Islamic terror from groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram. Just over the past week, an estimated 10,000 people—Christians and Muslims alike—have arrived in Italy from Libya.
On Thursday, Italian officials requested help from the European Union with rescuing those who are risking their lives to make the journey to the country.
“Ninety percent of the cost of the patrol and sea rescue operations are falling on our shoulders, and we have not had an adequate response from the EU,” Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni told the publication Corriere della Sera. “And then there is the difficult issue of knowing where to send those rescued at sea—to the nearest port? To the country where their boat came from? The EU has to respond clearly to these questions.”
He urged Libyan officials to work to bring peace in the region, as many migrants are fleeing the country to escape the nation’s civil war.
“We don’t have months and months [to figure this out],” Gentiloni said. “The double risk of an advance of the Islamic State group in Libya and the waves of migrants means we are in a race against the clock.”
Photo: Tomo News screenshot