From the Electronic Intifada - The painful stories of Palestinians who survived shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea while attempting to flee Gaza and Syria for Europe can be heard on two recent BBC broadcasts.
Shukri al-Assouli was one of only less than a dozen out of an estimated five hundred migrants to be found by rescue workers four days after their ship was deliberately rammed and capsized by suspected traffickers last September.
He lost his wife and two young daughters, aged four and nine months old, in the tragedy, al-Assouli told Matthew Bannister, host of BBC World Service’s Outlook radio program (the interview can be heard here). Bannister interviewed al-Assouli in Athens, where he is seeking asylum in a third country.
Al-Assouli said that “There were many reasons that led me to leave Gaza. Things were very bad given the three Israeli wars we had in less than five years … The recent war had traumatized my wife and children.”
The young man also sought medical treatment for a shrapnel wound from Israeli fire which he suffered in 2004. He hoped to reach Germany with the help of smugglers in Egypt, to whom he and his wife each paid $2,000 in their bid to reach Europe.
The couple disembarked with their young daughters at a port near Alexandria and were transferred to a smaller boat at sea. Al-Assouli estimates that 450 to 500 people were put on a boat that probably had capacity for only 150 people.
Al-Assouli told the BBC that he believes there were more than one hundred children among the migrants, many of whom were from Syria and Gaza. more