A migrant shipwreck off Italy’s southern coast brings the death toll to 62 as rescuers recovered three more bodies on Monday, a reminder of the desperate and dangerous voyage for those heading to Europe. It was decided to let Dozens more are believed to be missing.
A child was among the dead, and a wooden boat was wrecked by rough seas on a reef near the Calabrian coast on Sunday. Survivors reported that about 170 people were on board the ship that left Turkey last week, with at least 80 alive, but many more are feared dead.
Fragments of a 20-meter-long boat, a small child’s pink slippers, and a yellow plastic case with a panda painted on it were brought by immigrants to the shores of the Steckerto di Cutro on Calabria’s Ionian coast. My belongings were scattered.
Only a few life jackets were scattered in the rubble.
The United Nations and Doctors Without Borders said many of the victims were Afghans, members of extended families, Pakistanis and Iraqis. Afghans, the second nationals to apply for asylum in the EU last year, are increasingly fleeing the worsening security, humanitarian and economic problems following Taliban rule in August 2021.
On Monday, two Coast Guard vessels were searching from north to south off the coast of Stecato di Cutro, with helicopters flying overhead and all-terrain vehicles patrolling the coast. Strong winds are whipping up the sea, and debris from boats, gas tanks, food containers, shoes, etc. is still being lifted up.
Firefighters confirmed the discovery of three more bodies Monday morning, but said there was little chance of finding any survivors.
“It will not be possible because the sea conditions are too severe,” said Regional Fire Commander Roberto Fasano. “But we cannot give up this hope.”
Italian broadcaster Sky TG24 announced that at least three people had been arrested on suspicion of helping organize a trip from Izmir, Turkey.
Italy is one of the main destinations for migrant smugglers, especially those departing from the Libyan coast and Turkey. Of the 105,000 migrants who arrived on Italy’s shores last year, 15 per cent arrived from the Turkish route, nearly half of them fleeing Afghanistan, according to UN statistics.
More refugees are leaving Turkey, avoiding Greece and making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Italy. In Greece, authorities have been accused of repeatedly turning migrant ships back to Turkey. With overcrowded refugee camps in Greece making it difficult to reunite with families in western and northern Europe, more people are paying thousands of euros to smugglers to reach Italy directly.
Firefighter Giuseppe Larosa said the first rescuers to the scene were most dismayed by the number of drowning children and how many bodies were strewn about trying to cling to the boat to save themselves. said he was injured.
“It was a horrifying sight. There were bodies strewn on the beach, lots of dead bodies, lots of children among them,” LaRosa said on the beach Monday morning. He said he had devoted himself to the restoration work, but was heartbroken by the reaction of the survivors.
“The most impressive thing is their silence. The fear in their eyes and the silence. Silence,” he said.
On Monday, Mayor Cutoro declared his mourning and flags on public buildings were lowered to half mast. A city ordinance calls on all residents, especially elementary school students, to observe a minute’s silence at 11 a.m.
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedogi, who spearheads Italy’s anti-immigrant campaign, visited the site on Sunday and met with local authorities in Crotone. At a press conference, he argued the solution was to stop immigrants from traveling at all.
“I wonder if such crossings can be organized and forced to force women and children into tragically dangerous journeys,” he said.
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