Relatives fear worst with four men and a boy missing after Mediterranean ship disaster

Jun 15, 2023, 1:15 PM

In this undated photo from May, 2023 by a relative, Ali Sheiki, 29, poses for a photograph at an ai...

In this undated photo from May, 2023 by a relative, Ali Sheiki, 29, poses for a photograph at an airport in an undisclosed location. Sheiki was trying to reach Europe from Libya on an overcrowded fishing vessel that capsized in the Mediterranean in the early hours of June 14, 2023, killing dozens of people, 104 passengers are rescued, and hundreds are feared to be missing. Sheiki's relatives in Germany and Syria told The Associated Press they had recognized Ali Sheiki among the survivors taken to a southern Greek port in social and other media photographs, but by the end of Thursday, June 15, they had not been able to make contact with him. (Courtesy of family of Ali Sheiki via AP)

(Courtesy of family of Ali Sheiki via AP)

BEIRUT (AP) — Seeking to find lives better than they had in their war-scarred town in northeast Syria, four men and a 14-year-old boy from the Sheikhi family set out for Europe.

Ignoring an older relative’s warnings, the group boarded a fishing boat from Libya to Italy, where they hoped to start crossing Europe on land and get to Germany.

Instead of docking in Italy, the trawler capsized and sank Wednesday in thousands of feet of seawater 75 kilometers (45 miles) off Greece, close to the deepest part of the Mediterranean. The trawler may have carried as many as 750 passengers. Hundreds remained missing late Thursday. It would be one of the worst Mediterrranean shipwrecks in recent history if officials confirm relatives’ worst fears, as expected.

Five members of one family were aboard the trawler, including Ali Sheikhi, 29. The father of three boys, he left behind his wife, and boys — ages 6, 5 and 2 — hoping to one day reunite in Europe and offer the children the good education no longer found at home.

“He wanted to save his children,” said Abdo Sheikhi, 38, Ali’s brother.

Abdo Sheikhi reached Germany seven years ago. His five relatives left Kobani, a border town near Turkey, in early March.

Once a symbol of victory against Islamic State militants in 2015, Kobani has been hit by the country’s bitter divisions, and over a decade of war, like much of Syria. With no development, no investment and no sign of peace, many in northeastern Syria are following the footsteps of earlier migrants to Europe but taking much higher risks because Turkey has been tightening its borders and making the land crossing harder.

Many of the Syrians missing were also from Daraa, a region in Syria’s southernmost tip, near the border with Jordan.

Abdo Sheikhi’s five relatives went through government-controlled Syria into Lebanon. They then flew to Cairo and from there to Tripoli and on land to Tobruk, Libya. Aside from the expenses paid to reach Libya, the five were supposed to pay $6,000 each to the smugglers, money that was to be paid once they reached Italy.

“They were supposed to arrive in three or four days,” Mohamed Abdi Marwan, an uncle, said speaking by phone from Kobani, a Kurdish-majority town. “It was a shock. We had hoped they will get there safely.”

Nine survivors were arrested Thursday on suspicion of being members of the ring that arranged the voyage, the Greek coast guard said. State-run ERT TV said the suspects were all Egyptian nationals.

“In Syria, there are no means for a life,” Abdo Sheikhi said. “Once they decided, I told them the Libya road is very dangerous and very long. They said: others made it. We too will take that road.”

Shahin, another relative of Sheikhi’s, who is also a resident of Germany, said he last heard from his relative when he complained about the conditions in waiting in Libya for months. The smugglers wouldn’t let them leave the rooms where they were, ostensibly to avoid detection, often confiscated their phones, and would not bring them the food they requested.

“They were seven to a room … They didn’t see the sun,” said Shahin, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to not jeopardize his ability to stay in Germany. “They were sad and gripped by despair. But they would not take a decision to go back to Syria.”

The men from the Sheikhi family texted relatives late last Thursday to say they would leave in a few hours, on a boat that was supposed to carry 300 people, said the elder Sheikhi.

The family waited for a confirmation photo from Italy. None came.

“The (smugglers) sent the boys to their deaths,” Abdo Sheikhi said.

Hours after rescue operations began, a member of the Sheikhi family thought he spotted Ali in a photo of survivors posted on social media. The man was laying on the floor in a line of others wrapped in blankets in the makeshift camp set up for the passengers. His hand was raised, covering most of his face, except for a distinctive beard. Then came another picture of a man uncovered and sitting up, holding a piece of paper.

There was no sign of other relatives and no way to reach the man on the floor to confirm it is Ali.

The elder Sheikhi, working as an electrician in Germany, said he has called the hospital in Greece to try to get information, with no luck. He was unable to get news from the makeshift camp and is still weighing whether to travel to Greece to look for relatives.

Abdo Sheikhi said the trip to Greece will cost him at least 600 euros and he can’t speak English.

“I will wait till tomorrow. If there are no news, I will have to go,” he said. “The problem will be if I go there and it is of no use.”


Associated Press

Weapons charges dropped in 2018 raid on family compound in desert that turned up child’s remains

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Two firearms charges were dismissed Thursday amid preparations for a trial against an extended family arrested in a 2018 law enforcement raid on a ramshackle desert compound in northern New Mexico and the discovery of a young boy’s decomposed body. The changes narrow the case to terrorism and kidnapping charges […]

4 hours ago

FILE - Sabreen Sharrief, right, reaches out to hug fellow plaintiff Dorothy Triplett after testifyi...

Associated Press

Mississippi high court blocks appointment of some judges in majority-Black capital city and county

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The Mississippi Supreme Court on Thursday struck down part of a state law that would have authorized some circuit court judges to be appointed rather than elected in the capital city of Jackson and the surrounding county, which are both majority-Black. Critics said the law was an effort by the majority-white […]

5 hours ago

Associated Press

Wisconsin Republicans propose impeaching top elections official after disputed vote to fire her

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A group of Republican Wisconsin lawmakers on Thursday proposed impeaching the battleground state’s top elections official as Democrats wage a legal battle to keep the nonpartisan administrator in office. Democrats say the GOP-controlled state Senate acted illegitimately when it voted along party lines last week to oust Wisconsin Elections Commission Administrator […]

6 hours ago

Associated Press

Former Mississippi Democratic Party chair sues to reinstate himself, saying his ouster was improper

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The former chair of Mississippi’s Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit seeking to reinstate himself as its leader, arguing that he was improperly ousted in July. Tyree Irving, a former appellate judge who had chaired the state party since 2020, was voted out by a majority of party officials at a […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Remains of Michigan soldier killed in Korean War accounted for after 73 years

DETROIT (AP) — The remains of an 18-year-old Army corporal from Detroit who was killed in the Korean War in 1950 have been identified, officials said Thursday. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that Cpl. Lewis W. Hill was accounted for on May 22 after agency scientists identified his remains using dental and anthropological analysis […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

New York attorney general sends cease-and-desist letter to group accused of voter intimidation

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — The New York attorney general’s office on Thursday sent a cease-and-desist letter to a group accused of confronting voters at their homes while claiming to be state election officials and falsely accusing people of committing voter fraud. The letter orders the group NY Citizens Audit to immediately stop any voter intimidation […]

9 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Relatives fear worst with four men and a boy missing after Mediterranean ship disaster