Italy: 30 migrants missing in shipwreck off Libya, 17 rescued
By Giada Zampano
ROME (AA): Italy rescued at least 17 migrants while 30 others are still missing after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean.
The Italian Coast Guard Command said on Sunday they conducted a rescue operation targeting the boat carrying 47 people about 177 kilometers (110 miles) off the coast of Libya after being alerted by the Alarm Phone charity, which picks up calls from migrant vessels in distress, and receiving a request for support from Libyan authorities.
It added that two commercial ships in the region and a patrol plane of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) are continuing to search for the missing migrants.
Two migrants who were injured in the capsizing and needed urgent medical treatment were brought to Malta for assistance, the coast guard said.
The new tragedy comes just a few weeks after the shipwreck of a wooden boat close to the coasts of Italy’s southern Calabria region that killed at least 79 migrants, including more than 30 minors.
The Italian right-wing government headed by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is facing increasing criticism for not having activated rescue forces soon enough to avoid the shipwreck.
In relation to the Libya incident, Alarm Phone blamed Italy again for not sending its coast guards despite having been repeatedly alerted on Saturday that the boat was in distress.
Italy’s coast guard, however, stressed in its statement that the boat capsized outside the Italian Search and Rescue area (SAR) and that it was forced to intervene due to the inactivity of the competent authorities in the area.
The Meloni government took power last October promising a tough stance against illegal immigration and human traffickers.
However, it is facing an increase in arrivals of migrants on Italian shores. About 17,600 irregular migrants arrived in Italy in 2023 as of March 10, which is almost three-fold the number compared with the same period last year, according to Interior Ministry data.
Data from Italy’s Interior Ministry showed that 20,017 irregular migrants came to the country via the Mediterranean in the Jan. 1 to March 13 period compared with 6,152 during the same period last year.
Between March 9-11 alone, 4,566 people arrived irregularly via the Mediterranean migration routes.
Due to the increase in migrant arrivals, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Tajani and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport and Infrastructure Matteo Salvini participated in a video conference with Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi and Defense Minister Crosetto to evaluate the situation.
According to a report by the La Repubblica newspaper on the meeting, it was discussed to use appropriate technological tools of the Italian Navy to detect boats carrying irregular migrants in zones outside territorial waters and to improve coordination in surveillance at sea.
Meanwhile, Turkey recovered the bodies of two more irregular migrants from a weekend shipwreck off the country’s western coast, the Turkish Coast Guard said Monday.
The death toll from Saturday’s incident rose to seven, the coast guard said in a statement on its website.
On Saturday, the Turkish teams rescued 11 irregular migrants, including a child, in the Aegean Sea.
The asylum seekers, mostly African nationals, were taken to the shore and then transferred to a nearby hospital.
[Photo: Relatives of people who died in a migrant shipwreck, arrive at sports hall morgue to pay last tribute on coffins in Crotone, Italy on March 01, 2023. Wooden boat had crashed against rocks off the coast of Italy’s southern Calabria region on 26 February. Photographer: Valeria Ferraro/AA]
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