The left-to-die boat…


Civil war makes no citizens, only orphans.

So we set out on the sea in search of safety,

seventy-two souls on a ten-meter rubber boat;

men, women, children, mothers with babies clutched close.

Pushed more by hope than the asthmatic outboard

towards Lampedusa, island portal to paradise,

where lions would lay with lambs,

if they could but scale the razor wire.


The Smuggler said the swirling waters were closely watched.

A thousand electronic eyes scanned the surface of the sea,

so that when the engine coughed and died, we did not fear at first.

Someone was sure to hear the distress call. Someone was sure to come.

But we did not know that the digital waves would splash down only

on a civilisation made of stone.


Then came the days of drifting.

Days dissolving.

Some drank of the sea and it turned their brains to brine.

Some shouted and raved; others  went


The young died first, theirsouls were liquefied.


I cried to God for salvation and he sent us a fishing boat

But we were a catch not worth landing.

I cried to God for salvation and he sent a helicopter

but the pilot took away only our photographs.

I cried to God for salvation and he sent a sleek NATO frigate

Which circled like a well-fed shark, but maintained proper detachment.


Not even the hands of God were strong enough

to save.



As if in contempt, the sea spat our bodies

onto the same hostile shore we once sought to leave behind.

Even the 9 souls still breathing

are  dead now.


This poem is based on the story of the so called ‘left to die boat’, whose story was plucked from many to illustrate the fate of people who set out on the open sea to escape war and poverty, heading for Europe. Despite their distress calls being received, numerous sightings by planes, helicopters, fishing boats and military craft, no one went to their aid. After drifting for 14 days, the survivors washed up in Libya, the country from which they had left 16 days earlier. Of the 72 who set off, 11 were still alive when they made land fall. Two more died on the beach.

1 thought on “The left-to-die boat…

  1. These stories break my heart over and over. Our Government agreeing a small number of just 3000 and stopping after 10%. There is so much wealth and room in our country. While others argue if we make it easier more will try to cross – that seems a sophistical and geographical way of walking by on the other side. And UKIP solution to cancel Over Sea’s Aid to fund the NHS!!!!
    The world is still too 2016 for me.

    Happy Birthday. Hope card arrived? We did text but no reply so you may have handed your phone in to a museum or something. Hope your day went well and love to all – Mark & DeeDee xxx

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