More than 100 people feared dead in Italy migrant boat shipwreck

More than 100 people feared dead in Italy migrant boat shipwreck
More than 100 people feared dead in Italy migrant boat shipwreck

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - ROME — There are fears that more than 100 people, including children, have died after their boat sank in rough seas off southern Italy.

At least 62 migrants are confirmed to have died, with 12 children said to be among the victims, including a baby.

The vessel, thought to have carried some 200 people, broke apart while trying to land near Crotone on Sunday.

People from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Iran were said to be on board.

Bodies were recovered from the beach at a nearby seaside resort in the Calabria region.

The coast guard said 80 people had been found alive, “including some who managed to reach the shore after the sinking”, meaning many more remain unaccounted for.

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

Many of those on board were thought to be from Pakistan. Its Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Monday said more than two dozen Pakistanis were believed to have been among those who drowned, and has asked diplomats to verify the facts as soon as possible.

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

At a temporary reception center in the town of Isola di Capo Rizzuto, some of them were crying without speaking, some were just staring into the void, wrapped in blankets.

“They are heavily traumatized” said Sergio Di Dato, from charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). “Some children have lost their whole family. We are offering them all the support we can.”

A 16-year-old boy from Afghanistan lost his 28-year-old sister, who died on the beach next to him. He can’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 in tears would not move from the beach after losing her husband.

“This is yet another tragedy happening near our shores. It reminds us all that the Mediterranean is a giant mass grave, with tens of thousands of souls in it, and it continues to widen,” said Francesco Creazzo, spokesman for SOS Méditerranée, an NGO engaged in rescue operations in the central Mediterranean.

“There is no end in sight; in 2013, people said ‘never again’ to the little white coffins of Lampedusa, in 2015, they said ‘never again’ in front of the lifeless body of a two-year-old Syrian child on a beach. Now the words ‘never again’ are not even pronounced any more. We only hear ‘no more departures’, but unfortunately people keep venturing on this journey and they keep dying,” he added.

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

“Just yesterday [Sunday], yet another horrific shipwreck in the Mediterranean claimed the lives of scores of people seeking a better future for themselves and their children. Refugee and migrant rights are human rights,” he said.

He added that while criminal gangs controlled migration routes, people would continue to die: “We need safe, orderly, legal routes for migrants and refugees. And we must do everything possible to prevent the loss of life by providing search and rescue and medical care.”

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni — elected last year partly on a pledge to stem the flow of migrants into Italy — on Sunday expressed “deep sorrow” and blamed the deaths on traffickers.

“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 in a statement.

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

Meloni’s right-wing government has vowed to stop migrants reaching Italy’s shores and in the last few days pushed through a tough new law tightening the rules on rescues.

The vessel, which had sailed from Turkey several days ago, is reported to have sunk after it crashed against rocks during rough weather, sparking a large search-and-rescue operation on land and at sea.

Video footage shows timber from the wreckage that had been smashed into pieces washing up on the beach, along with parts of the hull.

According to monitoring groups, more than 20,000 people have died or gone missing at sea in the central Mediterranean since 2014. — BBC

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