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Letter sent on Oct 16, 2015

Update: October 16

How 30 seconds of your time could help find the Ghost Boat

It’s been an exciting few days, with lots of things moving and a lot of information we’re getting ready to put out. Before we do that, though, this weekend we have a small task for you that’s (a) very easy and (b) could move the project forward in a useful way.

Notes From the Field

But first, a few words from Eric Reidy and Gianni Cipriano, who have been in southern Tunisia this week reporting for the next Ghost Boat episode. Here’s a snap Eric took of Gianni hard at work on the docks.

We visited fishermen in the port of Zarzis who told us that shipwrecks — and the corpses from them — are nothing new in the Mediterranean. The situation has been intruding in their work since 1995.
Then we headed further south towards the border with Libya. There, we visited Choucha, a refugee camp opened in 2011 for people fleeing the conflict in Libya. The camp was closed in 2013, but around 50 people still live there in a state of limbo.
Just 7km from the border, the people in Choucha have an up close perspective on comings and goings from Libya — both legal and illegal. Their personal stories are also an insight into the treatment of undocumented people in Tunisia.

Now they’ve moved up the coast to the city of Sfax, and starting to dig into the possibility that the Ghost Boat somehow made it to Tunisia instead of Italy.

This Just In

A huge round of applause for Kirk Pettinga, who has managed to find and secure a trove of information about boat movements in the region: We should be receiving that data very soon, and it could be vital in pinpointing possible sightings and locations.

If the Ghost Boat passengers are being detained in Libya, they wouldn’t be the first refugees to be held there, dangersquirrel points out. There are at least 26 known detention centers in the country, including one at the Tripoli Zoo. Yup, the zoo.

White Rabbit wonders if “Zwhara” is the same as “Zuwarah” (Almost certainly). If so, then this article describes refugees who set sail from the same place as the Ghost Boat passengers and ended up in Tunisia’s Wardia Prison. Perhaps, as they suggest, it would be useful for us to write place names in Arabic as well as English. Fair point. We’ll make sure we do from now.


Rocío Rødtjer explains that in Spanish, there’s actually a word for the type of boats refugees use: “Patera.” Rachel Glickhouse has a useful quickstart guide to the project — very handy for sharing with people.

Your Weekend Task

Diana Madej pointed us towards another database of refugee arrivals. Good find! We could use some help digging through it.

So that’s this weekend’s task. We’ve opened up the spreadsheet of boat incidents so anybody can edit or add to it. Please take 30 seconds to grab an incident from one of the following sources and add it into a line on the spreadsheet, with whatever information you can find.

Blue Borders


Things might feel a little static, but the job of investigating is one that takes time and effort. We’re making good progress, thanks to you.


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