Twelve children were among the at least 59 people who perished after a wooden sailing boat bringing migrants to Europe collided with rocks close to the southern Italian coast early on Sunday, according to authorities.
The ship, which left Turkey and was carrying passengers from Afghanistan, Iran, and other nations, capsized in choppy waters before dawn close to Steccato di Cutro, a beach town on Calabria’s eastern coast.
The episode reignited the conversation about immigration in Europe and Italy, where the right-wing government’s strict new regulations for organizations that help migrants in need have garnered criticism from the UN and others.
According to Manuela Curra, a representative of the provincial government, 81 persons managed to survive the catastrophe. Twenty of them were admitted to hospitals, one of them was in intensive care.
At least 60 migrants from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, including women and children, died when the boat they were trying to reach Italy sank. The shipwreck occurred off the coast of Calabria, at Steccato di Cutro, in the far south of Italy.— Disaster News (@Top_Disaster) February 26, 2023
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Despite claims from survivors that the boat had been carrying between 150 and 200 migrants, interior minister Matteo Piantedosi, who had traveled to the scene, suggested 20 to 30 individuals might still be missing.
The ship left the port of Izmir in western Turkey about four days ago, and an EU border agency Frontex plane discovered it late on Saturday around 74 kilometers (46 miles) off the Italian coast, according to Italian police.
According to police, patrol boats were dispatched to intercept it, but bad weather forced them to turn around and head back to port. Following this, officials mobilized search units along the shoreline.
One of those discovered washed up on the shore was a baby, according to press reports.
A seventh-grade dead child was discovered, according to emergency physician Laura De Paoli.
“When we arrived at the shipwreck’s location, we discovered bodies floating everywhere, and we saved two guys who were supporting a child. Unfortunately, the infant had passed away “She informed ANSA.
Antonio Ceraso, the mayor of Cutro, spoke to the SkyTG24 news station while breaking down in tears as he described what he had witnessed as “a spectacle that you would never want to see in your life… a horrific sight… that sticks with you for all your life.”
A long stretch of the coastline was covered in the wreckage from the wooden Turkish sailing boat known as a gulet.
One survivor was detained on suspicion of trafficking in migrants, according to the Guardia di Finanza customs police.
Giorgia Meloni, the prime minister of Italy, expressed her sadness over the fatalities and accused human traffickers of making money by giving refugees “the false prospect of a safe passage.”
“The administration is committed to preventing departures, and with them the escalation of these tragedies, and will continue to do so,” she added. “The government will do so, first and foremost, by calling for maximum cooperation from the nations of departure and of origin.”
According to Meloni’s administration, migrant rescue organizations incentivize people to get to Italy by treacherous sea and occasionally collaborate with human traffickers.
Both charges are categorically denied by charities.
In response to Sunday’s shipwreck, Spanish migrant rescue organization Open Arms tweeted, “Stopping, restricting, and limiting the activity of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) will have only one effect: the death of vulnerable people left without help.”
However, NGO ships, which operate in the waters south of Sicily, have not monitored the coast off Calabria. That implies that despite Meloni’s crackdown, they were unlikely to find the shipwrecked migrants.
As part of a “structural, shared, and humanitarian response” to the migratory crisis, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi of the Italian Catholic Church advocated for the restart of an EU search and rescue mission in the Mediterranean.
In a similar spirit, a spokeswoman for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) of the UN made a Twitter plea for the expansion of rescue efforts in the Mediterranean.
Flavio Di Giacomo urged action to address what he claimed were the many factors driving people to undertake the sea crossings as well as the opening of “more regular migratory corridors” to Europe.
Pope Francis, an outspoken supporter of immigrant rights and the son of Italian immigrants to Argentina, said he was praying for the victims of the shipwreck earlier on Sunday.
One of the main ports of entry for migrants trying to reach Europe by sea is Italy, from where many continue to the wealthier countries of northern Europe. But in order to do so, they must traverse the most treacherous migration route on earth.
Since 2014, the central Mediterranean has seen more than 20,000 deaths and disappearances, according to the United Nations Missing Migrants Project. It calculates that over 220 people have passed away or vanished this year.