At least 43 migrants died when their overcrowded wooden boat crashed into a rocky reef off southern Italy at dawn Sunday, the Italian coast guard said.
“So far, 80 people have been recovered alive – some of whom made it to shore after the ship sank – and 43 bodies have been found along the shore,” said the Coast Guard statement just before noon.
Italy’s Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, said the migrants were crowded into a 20-meter (66-foot) boat in “bad weather conditions”. In a statement issued by her office, she expressed her “deep sorrow for the many lives that human traffickers have torn.”
“It is inhumane to trade the lives of men, women and children for the ‘price’ of the ticket they paid in the false prospect of a safe journey,” said Meloni, a far-right leader who includes his allies in government. The Immigrant League Party.
She vowed to use her leadership to push for a crackdown on departures organized by people smugglers and pressure fellow EU leaders to help Italy in its quest.
A piece of the boat, along with piles of chipped wood, was littered on the beach at Steccato di Cutro, a part of the Calabrian coast along the Ionian Sea. Some survivors tried to keep warm, wrapped in what appeared to be colorful blankets or sheets.
A helicopter and motorboats were deployed in the search effort, including ships from government firefighters, border police and coast guards.
It added in a statement that a coast guard motor boat rescued two men who were suffering from hypothermia and pulled out the body of a boy in rough seas. Firefighters’ boats, including rescue divers, recovered 28 bodies, including three pulled by a strong current away from the wreck.
The Italian news agency AGI said that among the bodies was that of a few-month-old baby.
Pope Francis on Sunday expressed his regret that children were among the victims of the shipwreck.
“I pray for each and every one of them, for the lost and for the other immigrants who survived,” Francis told the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. The pope added that he was also praying for the rescuers “and for those who welcome” the migrants.
“It is a colossal tragedy,” Vincenzo Vos, the mayor of Crotone, told RAI state television.
“In solidarity,” Foss said, “the city will find places in the cemetery” for the dead.
There were no immediate details on the nationalities of the migrants in the reports.
It is also not clear where the boat set off from, but immigrant ships arriving in Calabria usually depart from the Turkish or Egyptian shores. Many of these boats, including sailboats, often reach remote stretches of Italy’s long southern coast without the aid of coast guards or humanitarian rescue vessels.
Another sea route used by traffickers, and considered one of the deadliest passages for migration, crosses the central Mediterranean from the Libyan coast, where migrants often suffer harsh detention conditions for months, before they can board rubber dinghies or old wooden fishing boats, towards Italian beaches.
Most of the migrants leaving Libya are fleeing poverty in sub-Saharan Africa or Asian countries like Bangladesh and Pakistan, not war or persecution, and risking asylum claims rejected by Italian authorities.
Another stressful route begins with smugglers’ boats on the shores of Tunisia, as many of those boats reach the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, or the shores of Sardinia, often without the need for rescue.
Meloni’s government has focused on complicating the humanitarian boat effort To conduct multiple rescue operations in the central Mediterranean by assigning them ports of disembarkation along the northern coasts of Italy, which means that ships need more time to return to sea after their rescued people, often hundreds of migrants, are safely brought on board. to the beach.
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