More than 40 migrants seeking to reach Europe, including a baby, died when a crowded boat collided with rocky reefs off the coast of southern Italy in the early hours of the morning, authorities said.
The Italian Coast Guard said 80 people were rescued alive, some of whom managed to reach the shore, and 43 bodies were found after the shipwreck.occurred in the Calabria region, near the city of Crotone.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said the migrants were crammed into a 20-meter-long boat that was sailing in bad weather conditions.
? More than 40 migrants die in a shipwreck in the Mediterranean off the coast of Italy
? Twitter @anis_epis pic.twitter.com/m8FY77imm7
– Telam Agency (@AgenciaTelam) February 26, 2023
In a statement, Meloni expressed her “deep pain” and stated that it was “criminal to send a vessel barely 20 meters into the sea with 200 people on board and with a bad weather forecast.”
“The Government is committed to preventing departures and this type of tragedies and will continue to do so by demanding, first of all, the greatest collaboration of the States of departure and origin,” he assured.
A piece of the boat, along with piles of splintered wood, littered the beach at Steccato di Cutro, part of the Calabrian coastline along the Ionian Seaaccording to images from Italian television channels.
Some of the survivors were trying to keep warm, wrapped in what appeared to be colored blankets or sheets.
The Italian news agency AGI said that among the bodies was that of a baby of a few months.
According to rescuers, the boat was carrying about 120 people and collided with some rocks a few meters from the shore.
The origin of the ship or the nationality of its occupants was not clear. Most of the migrants who reach the coasts of Calabria cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya, Egypt or Turkey.
Pope Francis showed his “pain” for the shipwreck.
“I have learned, with pain, of the shipwreck on the Calabrian coast, in Crotone. 40 dead have been recovered, including some children. I pray for each of them and for all the missing migrants,” lamented the Pope after the Sunday Angelus.
“I have learned, with pain, of the shipwreck on the Calabrian coast, in Crotone. 40 dead have been recovered, including some children. I pray for each of them and for all the missing migrants”Pope Francisco
The pontiff added that he was also praying for rescuers “and for those who welcome” migrants.
Calabrian authorities also regretted the event.
“Dozens and dozens of drowned, including children, many missing. Calabria is mourning this terrible tragedy,” said Roberto Occhiuto, president of Calabria.
“It’s a huge tragedy”Crotone mayor Vincenzo Voce told RAI state television.
“In solidarity, the city will look for places in the cemetery” for the dead, he added.
Meloni’s anti-immigration laws
This new shipwreck takes place just days after the adoption in the Italian Parliament of a law on the rescue of migrants promoted by the Meloni government, made up of right-wing and extreme-right parties.
This new law that forces humanitarian ships to carry out a single rescue per trip out to sea, which according to critics increases the risk of deaths in the central Mediterranean, considered the most dangerous journey in the world for migrants.
In addition, humanitarian vessels will no longer be able to roam the Mediterranean full of people in search of shipwrecks, but must notify the Italian authorities after each rescue they carry out, while they must immediately go to the port assigned to lower the rescued people
Likewise, the regulations contemplate fines of up to 50,000 euros for those who provide humanitarian assistance, something that the United Nations described as “worrying.”
⚫️ The number of the vittimes and the dispersion of the shipwreck grows in the long run #crotone.
Chi, al goberno, chiude le frontiere e non appre canali legali e sicuri d’ingresso in #Europedovrebbe just tacere.
Per respectto. pic.twitter.com/P363tkhpYR
— Mediterranean Saving Humans (@RescueMed) February 26, 2023
Meloni, the leader of the Brothers of Italy (FDI) party, who came to power in October in a coalition, had promised to reduce immigration into Italy.
Italy’s geographical situation makes it a destination of choice for asylum seekers moving from North Africa to Europe.
For the Italian Minister of the Interior, Matteo Piantedosi, this “tragedy (…) demonstrates how it is absolutely necessary to fight firmly against clandestine immigration networks.”
Rome has been complaining for years about the number of arrivals in its territory, about the fact that it has to absorb migrants without collaboration from the rest of the countries of the European Union (EU).
According to the Interior Ministry, some 14,000 migrants have arrived in Italy since the beginning of the year, up from 5,200 in the same period last year and 4,200 in 2021.
Although NGOs only rescue a small percentage of them – most are intercepted by coast guard or navy vessels – the government accuses them of encouraging arrivals and encouraging smugglers with their work.
“People at sea must be saved whatever the cost, without penalizing those who help them,” Carlo Calenda, a former minister and leader of the centrist Azione party, reacted on Twitter on Sunday.