“The death toll will continue to rise,” Italian correspondent Anouk Boone said. “According to Italian media reports, there were between 150 and 250 people on board.” Among the victims are also several children and a baby of several months.
81 people have survived so far, others are still missing. One of the survivors was arrested on suspicion of human trafficking.
According to the Italian tax police, the boat left the Turkish city of Izmir four days ago with migrants from Afghanistan and Iran, among others. According to Italian authorities, the ship ran into stormy weather and struck rocks. The bodies washed up in Steccato di Cutro in the Calabria region. According to the mayor of the Italian city, the wreckage is visible all over the beach and up to 300 meters from the coast.
“A horrifying sight,” the mayor of Cutro told Italian news channel SkyTG24. “It stays with you for the rest of your life.”
It’s an area where they’re familiar with migrant ships, Boone said. “A few years ago, another sailboat arrived in which migrants had been put in the hold by smugglers.”
In Italy, the reaction is mixed, says Boone. “On the one hand there is of course the shock: it’s really a disaster, but on the other hand people have also become used to this kind of news. It’s yet another crossing that goes wrong, yet another disaster at sea.
According to the correspondent, the bishops of Catholic Italy warn against this habituation.
Italy and migrants
Italy has been struggling for years with the influx of migrants. According to the Italian Interior Ministry, 13,067 migrants by boat have already arrived in Italy between January 1 and February 23 this year. During the same period in 2022, there were 5,273 and 4,156 the previous year. In 2022, a total of 105,129 migrants reached Italy. The record number of arrivals in one year was 181,436 in 2016.
There are also regular problems with migrants trying to make the crossing. According to her Missing Migrants Project According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 20,000 people have died or gone missing in the central Mediterranean since 2014.
The disaster also provoked many reactions from Italian politicians. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said he was “deeply saddened” by what happened.
Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said in a statement that it was essential to stop sea crossings, which he said offered migrants “the illusion of a better life” in Europe. He believes it is important that human traffickers do not enrich themselves and cause more such tragedies.
Strict migration policy
Italy has a right-wing government, led by Meloni. “Events like this inflame the migration debate and are used as political ammunition,” Boone says.
Meloni advocates a strict migration policy. She wants a better distribution of migrants between Northern and Southern Europe, and to prevent migrants from leaving for Italy. Since the new Italian government, NGO rescue vessels are facing rules and laws that make rescue work more difficult. According to the government, the reddish pen is actually operating as a taxi service for migrants.
Just last week the government passed new protocols for these types of rescue vessels. “If a ship has made a rescue, it must dock again immediately afterwards. The ship cannot search any further. It is in Meloni’s line to keep the doors closed as much as possible,” the correspondent said.
“Meloni speaks sympathetically about the disaster and describes it as inhumane. But I think the Prime Minister will use it afterwards to defend his policy in Europe. She does not want migration to be an Italian problem only and tries to make your voice heard in Brussels to say: we really have to do something with this.”
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