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Monday, June 17, 2024

Forty-One Migrants Die In Shipwreck Off Italy

The Italian coastguard recovered the bodies of a one-year-old baby and a woman from the Ivory Coast. 

Reports from Rome says 41 migrants have died in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa, survivors told local media.

A group of four people who survived the disaster told rescuers that they were on a boat that had set off from Sfax in Tunisia and sank on its way to Italy.

The four survivors, originally from the Ivory Coast and Guinea, reached Lampedusa on Wednesday.

Tunisian authorities say Sfax, a port city about 80 miles (130km) from Lampedusa, is a popular gateway for migrants seeking safety and a better life in Europe.

Thirteen people have drowned after the migrant ships carrying them sank in the Mediterranean Sea at the weekend.

A ship sank off Tunisia’s Kerkennah Islands, with 11 bodies recovered on Sunday. A further 44 are still missing, and only two were rescued.

Separately, two ships sank off the Italian island of Lampedusa, leading to the deaths of a woman from Ivory Coast and her one-year-old baby.

More than 30 are thought to be missing who had been on those two vessels.

They had reportedly left from the Tunisian port city of Sfax carrying 48 and 42 people respectively. They sank on Saturday, with Italian coastguards rescuing 57 people.

The migrants in all three of the sinkings are said to be from sub-Saharan African countries. Italian authorities are investigating the incidents.

Tunisian officials also said they found the bodies of 10 migrants on a beach near Sfax.

They were found between Friday and Saturday during a windstorm which may have sunk their boat, the official told the AFP news agency.

The tragedies follow June’s Greek boat disaster which left at least 78 dead and hundreds missing.

State-run Tunisian TV channel Al Arabiya reported that another 34 migrants found stranded on a rocky area near Lampedusa on Sunday had been rescued.

In recent days, Italian patrol boats and charity groups have rescued another 2,000 people who have arrived on the island.

The Red Cross has provided some of the migrants with food, water, clothes and emergency thermal blankets.

But the coastguard said bad weather and the poor quality of the boats continue to hinder the rescue operations.

In some instances, the engines are stolen from the boats at sea, so that traffickers can reuse them.

Police chief Emanuele Ricifari urged the traffickers to halt the crossings, saying: “Rough seas are forecast for the next few days. Let’s hope they stop. It’s sending them to slaughter with this sea.”

NGOs say Italy’s far-right government has made their task more difficult by passing laws that have the effect of forcing rescue ships to use faraway ports.

Charities have warned that this increases their navigation costs and reduces the amount of time ships can patrol the areas of the Mediterranean where such sinkings are common.

The Italian interior ministry said migration figures by sea had doubled this year to 92,000, compared with 42,600 recorded in the same period in 2022.

Since March this year, crossing attempts from Sfax to Lampedusa have increased after Tunisian President Kais Saied accused sub-Saharan migrants of trying to change the nature of Tunisian society.

More than 1,800 people have lost their lives in the central Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Europe.

The International Organization for Migration said the actual figures were likely to be much higher.

“Lots of bodies are being found at sea, suggesting there are many shipwrecks we never hear about,” said spokesman Flavio Di Giacomo. — BBC

Source: BBC/SG.

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