Italy: Death toll from migrant shipwreck off southern Italy climbs to 63
By Ahmet Gencturk
ATHENS (AA): The death toll from the shipwreck off southern Italy of a wooden boat carrying migrants climbed to 63, local media reported Monday.
Search and rescue teams recovered four more bodies, including of a 14-year-old girl, said the state-run ANSA news agency.
12 children have died after their wooden boat crashed against rocks off the coast of Italy’s southern Calabria region, authorities said on Sunday.
Dozens of people who are still missing could already be dead, it noted, adding many of the victims were women and children.
Citing the Italian Coast Guard, it said at least 80 migrants survived the shipwreck, which occurred Sunday after the boat crashed against rocks off the coast of Italy’s southern Calabria region, but authorities fear the death toll could continue to rise as the boat was carrying some 200 people.
Most of the bodies were found washed up on the shores of Steccato di Cutro, a resort in the province of Crotone, while a few others were retrieved from the water, rescuers said.
The vessel — which had on board migrants from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan — collided with the reefs in violently rough seas off Crotone’s shores before dawn on Sunday.
The tragedy comes just days after the far-right government led by Premier Giorgia Meloni pushed through Parliament a controversial new law on rescuing migrants.
Meloni expressed her “deep sorrow for the many human lives cut short by human traffickers,” noting that “it is criminal to launch a boat just 20 meters long with as many as 200 people on board and with adverse weather forecasts.”
She stressed that the government “is committed to preventing the departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so, first of all by demanding maximum collaboration from the states of departure and of origin.”
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said the latest tragedy “shows how it is absolutely necessary to fight firmly against irregular migration, handled by unscrupulous smugglers who, to get rich, organize these improvised trips, with inadequate boats and in prohibitive conditions.”
He called to move forward with any possible “initiative to block the departures and avoid encouraging the crossings.”
Meloni, leader of the anti-migrant Brothers of Italy party, won last September’s national elections promising to stop the flow of migrants reaching Italian shores.
The new law pushed by the Meloni government forces migrant aid vessels to make just one rescue attempt at a time, which critics say risks increasing the number of drownings in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous crossing in the world for people seeking asylum in Europe.
In a statement issued after the tragic incident, Italian President Sergio Mattarella called on the European Union to “finally concretely assume the responsibility of managing the migratory phenomenon to remove it from the traffickers of human beings.”
Mattarella added that the EU should also support development in countries where young people risk dangerous sea crossings toward what they hope would be better lives, as they see no future at home.
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