We’re Finally Meeting the Smuggler at the Center of the Ghost Boat Mystery
Hello again. It’s been a while.
A year ago, the Ghost Boat investigation was in full swing. We had spent several months trying to uncover what happened to 243 missing refugees, and thought we had a breakthrough.
Measho Tesfamariam, an Eritrean who was part of the smuggling group that had trafficked the Ghost Boat occupants, had agreed to an interview.
Tesfamariam was supposedly with the passengers in Libya, just before they went missing instead of making it to Italy. After making the Mediterranean journey himself, he had been detained by the police and was being held in jail in Sicily on people smuggling charges.
But that’s where things slowed down.
First Tesfamariam’s court case was drawn out, longer and longer. Then we were forced to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops to get permission to conduct an interview, each one a new and more complicated surprise. Then, suddenly, a strike by lawyers kept things on ice. By this February, things hit a complete dead end when publicity from an unrelated case saw the Italian justice system shut down all media access. That included us.
Our ability to meet and question one of the last men to see the Ghost Boat passengers had drifted, frustratingly, out of our grasp.
Last month, Gianni Cipriano got word that Tesfamariam was no longer in jail, but was now under house arrest as he served the remainder of his sentence. After new requests, we’ve finally been granted access. Now there are no further appeals, no more permissions required, no more delays.
Since our last update over the summer, we’ve been working slowly to try and bring this investigation to some kind of conclusion. Things went quiet while we tried to push the last pieces of the puzzle into place — and while Tesfamariam is still a gamble, our inability to speak to him has been one reason things went so quiet.
But now, next week, we’re going to interview him, finally.
Over the coming days, we want to catch you up on what we’ve been doing since our last update—how we’ve been trying to get things back on track in a case where evidence is so hard to come by.
And if you have been reading along, now is a great time to flag up anything you still want to know or understand or ask about: unanswered questions, queries, or loose ends. There’s so much that’s happened over the past 14 months that it’s been hard to keep track.
Then we’d like to know: What would you ask him?
We don’t know what he’ll say. We don’t know what he really saw. And we don’t know if it will get us any closer to the truth of the Ghost Boat. But we’ll be sharing what we’ve found out with you as soon as we can.
Photo credits: Alessandra Benedetti / Gianni Cipriano