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Italy Shipwreck Death Toll Rises As More Bodies Pulled From Sea

Italy Shipwreck Death Toll Rises As More Bodies Pulled From Sea
Italy Shipwreck Death Toll Rises As More Bodies Pulled From Sea. Credit: Vyacheslav Argenberg / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

Tragedy struck off the coast of Italy’s Calabria region as a wooden sailing boat carrying refugees reportedly crashed into rocks; the death toll has so far reached 62.

Rescue efforts recovered the bodies of two more victims from the sea, with fears that over 100 people died in the incident, which occurred on Sunday. Among the confirmed dead were 12 children, including a baby.

The vessel, believed to have been carrying around 200 people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, broke apart while trying to land near Crotone in rough seas. The bodies of many victims were found washed up on the tourist beach of Steccato di Cutro, while others were recovered from the sea.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday morning and called on countries to provide greater assistance to refugees and migrants, while also urging the creation of safer travel routes and strengthening of rescue operations.

Latest Reports on Death Toll

According to the latest reports, 80 people were rescued, with 20 taken to the hospital, while the remains of the broken vessel and personal belongings of passengers, including shoes, rucksacks, and a child’s rubber float, were strewn along the coast.

Sergio Tedesco, the commander of the local police force, said that it is difficult to establish the exact number of passengers, with some survivors claiming that there were 120 onboard the boat, while others claim there were 200. Tedesco fears that more bodies might surface as the sea calms down, even after a week.

Shehbaz Sharif, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, revealed that more than two dozen Pakistanis were believed to have died in the incident, alongside people from Afghanistan and Iran. The Afghan foreign ministry did not comment on the matter immediately.

Human Trafficking

Italian police have detained a Turkish national on suspicion of human trafficking. Italy remains one of the primary entry points for migrants seeking to enter Europe via the sea. The central Mediterranean route, known as one of the world’s most dangerous, sees thousands of refugees attempting to make the perilous journey every year.

On Sunday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, issued a plea to the nations of Europe, urging them to put aside their differences and “agree on just, effective, shared measures to avoid more tragedies.”

Measures Against Sea Rescue Charities

Italy witnessed over 100,000 refugees arriving by boat in 2022, and the nationalist government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, who took office in October, implemented stringent measures against sea rescue charities.

The measures included imposing fines of up to €50,000 (£44,000) on charities that do not comply with the requirement to request a port and immediately sail to it after one rescue, instead of staying at sea to save individuals from other boats in distress.

In recent months, rescue ships have been granted ports in central and northern Italy, resulting in longer journeys and reduced time at sea saving lives. Charities had warned that this measure could lead to the deaths of thousands of people.

Meloni expressed her grief over the loss of lives and reiterated her government’s commitment to preventing departures and the tragedies that follow. She further said:

“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.”

The bodies of the victims from the recent wreck have been taken to a sports hall in Crotone, and a minute of silence was observed at 11am CET in honor of the deceased, one of whom was a newborn.

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