Shipwreck by migrant boat in Italy: more than 100 people were feared dead

  • By Davide Ghiglione & Alexandra Fouche
  • In Rome and in London

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Watch: Images show Italian emergency services helping survivors

More than 100 people, including children, are feared dead after their boat sank off the coast of southern Italy.

At least 63 migrants have been confirmed dead, with reportedly 12 children, including a baby.

The ship, which was believed to have been carrying some 200 people, broke apart on Sunday as it attempted to land near Crotone.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has urged the EU institutions to take action to stop clandestine migrant boat trips.

On board the boat, which had left Turkey a few days earlier, were said to be people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Iran.

Bodies were recovered on the beach of a nearby resort in the Calabria region.

The Coast Guard said 80 people were found alive, “including some who managed to make it to shore after the sinking,” meaning many more are missing.

A survivor was arrested on charges of migrant trafficking, customs police said.

Many of those on board are said to be from Pakistan. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif said on Monday that more than two dozen Pakistanis were among the dead.

As relief and relocation operations continue, a group of survivors of the deadly shipwreck struggle to come to terms with the loss of their loved ones.

In a temporary shelter in the town of Isola di Capo Rizzuto, some of them cried without speaking, some just stared into the void, wrapped in blankets.

“They are very traumatized,” said Sergio Di Dato of Doctors Without Borders. “Some children have lost their entire family. We offer them all the support we can.”

A 16-year-old boy from Afghanistan lost his 28-year-old sister, who died next to him on the beach. He couldn’t find the strength to tell his parents.

A 43-year-old man from Afghanistan survived with his 14-year-old son, but his wife and his three other children, who were 13, nine and five, did not make it. Another Afghan woman would not leave the beach in tears after she lost her husband.

“This is yet another tragedy unfolding near our shores. It reminds us all that the Mediterranean is a gigantic mass grave, with tens of thousands of souls in it, and it’s getting bigger and bigger,” said Francesco Creazzo of SOS Méditerranée, a nun -governmental organization engaged in rescue operations in the Central Mediterranean.

“There is no end in sight; in 2013 people said ‘never again’ to the small white coffins of Lampedusa, in 2015 they said ‘never again’ to the lifeless body of a two-year-old Syrian child on a beach.

“Now the words ‘never again’ are not even spoken anymore. We only hear ‘no more leaving’, but unfortunately people keep venturing on this journey and they keep dying,” he added.

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Crotone: Muslims offered prayers for the victims as the sea search continued

Speaking at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday morning, Secretary-General António Guterres called on countries to do more to help refugees and migrants, calling for safer travel routes and strengthened rescue operations.

Prime Minister Meloni – elected last year in part on a pledge to halt the flow of migrants into Italy – said on Monday that the only way to tackle the problem of migrant departures “seriously” and “with humanity” was through migrant boat trips to stop.

Speaking to Italian public broadcaster Rai 1, she said she had written to the European Council and European Commission calling for immediate action to stop the departure of migrant boats to prevent more deaths.

“The more people leave, the greater the risk of dying,” she said.

Earlier on Sunday, she expressed “deep sadness” after the incident and blamed people smugglers.

“It is inhumane to exchange the lives of men, women and children for the price of the ‘ticket’ they paid in the false perspective of a safe journey,” she said.

“The government is committed to preventing departures and thus the unfolding of these tragedies and will continue to do so.”

Meloni’s right-wing government has vowed to prevent migrants from reaching Italian shores and in recent days has passed a tough new law tightening rules on rescues.

The ship is believed to have sunk after colliding with rocks during rough weather.

Video footage shows wood from the wreck washing up on the beach, along with parts of the hull.

More than 20,000 people have died or gone missing at sea in the Central Mediterranean since 2014, according to monitoring groups.

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