The Ghanaian Government has attributed the death of 12 Christian Nigerians and Ghanaians, who were allegedly thrown off an Italy-bound boat into the Mediterranean Sea two weeks ago, to an altercation about Boko Haram and the Islamic State.
It was reported on April 16 that the Italian police arrested 15 Muslim migrants for allegedly throwing 12 Christians overboard, following a row on the boat.
Eyewitnesses reportedly told police that the altercation resulted in Christians being thrown overboard and that some of the survivors had formed human chains to avoid a similar fate. The Italian navy were also said to have rescued four survivors from the sea, including a Ghanaian, two Nigerians, and a Nigerien.
Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Hanna Tetteh, in a Facebook post on Friday, noted that six Ghanaians had been confirmed dead by the four survivors.
She said, “With reference to the BBC story that broke last week on the death of some Ghanaian and Nigerian immigrants at sea, and who were apparently thrown overboard because of religious differences, we have sent our consular officer from our mission in Italy to visit the centre in Palermo where some of the migrants are being held.
“Our mission/embassy has reported back as follows: Our consular officer went to Palermo as we were informed that was where the surviving migrants were being held to meet them and the authorities investigating the matter. Our officer met with the deputy provincial prosecutor and his assistant in Palermo who are actually directly in charge of investigating these boats disasters.
“Six Ghanaians have been confirmed dead. Only three names of the drowned ones were provided by the four survivors at the camp. These four survivors, with two other Nigerians, are the key witnesses for the prosecution.”
Tetteh noted that from interviews conducted with the survivors, there appeared to have been a fight on the boat sparked by a religious argument.
She said it was apparent that the incident first started with a quarrel over the activities of the Islamic State and Boko haram, which escalated into a “Muslim-Christian affair” and degenerated to the point where the victims were thrown overboard.
“The (Ghanaian) Prosecutors Office in Palermo is preparing its case to prosecute those on board who were responsible for committing the crime, as previously stated the survivors are the key witnesses
We will keep the public informed on any further developments,” the Ghanaian foreign affairs minister added. (Punch)