At least 43 migrants have died after their boat sank off the coast of Italy’s southern Calabria region last week. Some 80 migrants have survived the shipwreck, according to the Italian coast guard, but authorities fear the death toll could climb.
This week the death toll rose to 70 from the shipwreck carrying these refugees on a wooden boat off southern Italy as the boat was carrying an overload of 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.
The vessel, which had migrants from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, crashed against rocks in rough seas, according to Italian news reports.
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.
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.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who is on an official visit to Abu Dhabi, dismissed reports that her government may have somehow impeded operations that would have saved the victims.
According to the report, Meloni was considering holding her next cabinet meeting in Cutro, the town of which the disaster took place, and to put the focus of it on migration.
Meloni reiterated that the Italian authorities did not get an alert from EU border agency Frontex that the fishing boat that the asylum seekers were on, and which broke up in rough waters, was in distress.
.An investigation has been initiated to determine whether rescue efforts were negligently delayed. Italy’s government was set to approve tougher jail terms for human smugglers, a draft decree seen by Reuters showed today, hours before a cabinet meeting near the town where a recent shipwreck killed at least 72 migrants.
Four suspected traffickers have been detained in the wake of the 26 February incident in the seaside resort of Steccato di Cutro, where a wooden boat crammed with an estimated 180 migrants crashed and sank near the shoreline.
Middle East Monitor / ABC Flash Point Human Trafficking News 2023.