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Aid Workers Hear Migrants' Accounts Of Shipwrecks


Now let's meet an aid worker who's been hearing from migrants firsthand. Her name is Sarah Tyler, and she is with the charity Save the Children. She traveled to Sicily after that shipwreck that claimed as many as 900 lives. Each day since then, she's been awaiting text messages signaling more boats in distress.

SARAH TYLER: So you basically move from port to port to be on the site when families and children come ashore.


And the boats have just kept coming. Nearly 450 migrants were rescued Wednesday, yesterday, 220 more, including six women.

TYLER: And four were pregnant. And they told me that they were so tired, all they wanted was food and water. And when I asked them why they came, one of the women said, I have to flee for my life.

INSKEEP: Save the Children has also heard accounts from survivors of Sunday's shipwreck, including a 16-year-old from Somalia.

TYLER: And he told us that about a year ago, his parents wanted him to come to Norway because he has relatives living in Norway. So they actually put him in the care of Sudanese smugglers. He crossed the desert by himself. And then in Libya, he was held as prisoner for nine months by armed smugglers until he could find the money to pay the smugglers. He also told us that in the cell that he was held in Libya there were other children and that all the children were treated badly. And he actually saw some die in front him because the smugglers didn't give them enough food and they became sick.

GREENE: Here's what happened next to that teenager; he was among those rounded up and shoved onto the boat that eventually capsized.

TYLER: The traffickers put him and the other migrants they were holding on a rubber dinghy. And with this they reached a big fishing boat with three levels, which was anchored close to the Libyan water. On this boat were lots of nationalities - from Mali, from Somalia, from Ethiopia, Bangladesh - and they beat them as they got onto the boat. And what really shocked us was that he said there were up to 60 unaccompanied children on this boat and that he saw people being locked underneath by key on the first level of the boat. So this meant when the boat capsized, no one had a chance to survive.

INSKEEP: That's Sarah Tyler of Save the Children. We reached her in Catania, Sicily. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.