Migrant boat capsizes off the coast of Italy killing 52 people including 12 children incident re-ignites the immigration debate in Europe
At least 59 people died, including 12 children, when a wooden sailing boat carrying migrants to Europe crashed against rocks near the southern Italian coast early on Sunday, authorities said.
The vessel, which sailed from Turkey and was carrying people from Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries, sank in rough seas before dawn near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the eastern coast of Calabria.
The incident reopened a debate on migration in Europe and Italy, where the recently-elected right-wing government’s tough new laws for migrant rescue charities have drawn criticism from the United Nations and others.
Manuela Curra, a provincial government official, told Reuters that 81 people had survived the shipwreck. Twenty of them were hospitalised, including one person in intensive care.
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, who travelled to the scene, said 20-30 people might still be missing, amid reports from survivors that the boat had been carrying between 150 to 200 migrants.
The vessel set sail from the western Turkish port of Izmir about four days ago and was spotted about 74 km (46 miles) off the Italian coast late on Saturday by a plane operated by European Union border agency Frontex, Italian police said.
Patrol boats were sent to intercept it, but severe weather forced them to return to port, police said, adding that authorities then mobilised search units along the coastline.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed deep sorrow for the deaths, and blamed human traffickers who profit while offering migrants “the false prospect of a safe journey”.
“The government is committed to preventing departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so, first of all by calling for maximum cooperation from the countries of departure and of origin,” she said.
Meloni’s administration has said migrant rescue charities are encouraging migrants to make the dangerous sea journey to Italy, and sometimes work in partnership with traffickers.
One survivor was arrested on migrant trafficking charges, the Guardia di Finanza customs police said.
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