More than 1,300 migrants aboard overloaded boats were rescued by the Italian coastguard on Saturday as a rally paid tribute to the victims of the deadly shipwreck that killed 74 people on February 26 off Calabria, south of Italy.
These rescue operations were carried out the same day of the discovery of three new bodies of victims of the sinking off Crotone of a boat carrying some 180 people, bringing the total toll to 76 dead. They are two little girls under the age of 10 and a man, according to Italian media.
Justice has opened an investigation into this tragedy. The maritime authorities, and in particular the coastguards, are suspected of not having reacted quickly enough to reports of the presence of an overloaded ship in the area.
This shipwreck shocked Italy and sparked strong criticism of the far-right government of Giorgia Meloni elected on an anti-migrant line.
On Saturday, in Cutro (province of Crotone), near the site of the deadly shipwreck, thousands of demonstrators marched through the streets behind a cross made with pieces of wood from the shipwreck.
"This cross is a symbol of today's suffering," said Domenico "Mimmo" Lucano, former mayor of Calabria known for his commitment to migrants, quoted by the Ansa news agency.
"During these emergencies, Calabrian communities are shaken, and what prevails is a spirit of solidarity that the government does not show," he added.
The coast guard and the Italian navy had dispatched several ships on Friday to come to the aid of three boats carrying several hundred migrants and spotted in the central Mediterranean, one of the most dangerous migratory routes in the world.
Saturday around 02:00 GMT, 487 migrants were brought back safe and sound at the port of Crotone, said the relief. Coastguard videos, released on Friday, showed some of them on the deck of a large fishing boat bobbing in rough seas.
Another rescue operation saw 500 migrants rescued aboard a coastguard vessel. Ansa had previously reported that the ship, carrying 584 migrants, had docked in the port of Reggio Calabria, a coastal city in the south of the Italian peninsula.
A third boat carrying 379 people was rescued by two coastguard patrol boats and the migrants were transferred to a navy vessel bound for the Sicilian port of Augusta.
At the end of a council of ministers relocated Thursday in the south of the country, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni had reaffirmed the determination of her government to fight against illegal immigration and smugglers.
A first outside Rome for the executive which, since taking office in October 2022, has multiplied the obstacles to the operations of humanitarian ships in the Mediterranean and engaged in a showdown with its European partners to obtain more solidarity in the reception migrants.
The Council of Ministers approved a new decree increasing the penalties for smugglers and creating a new crime punishable by thirty years in prison for those traffickers whose operations have resulted in the death or injury of their victims.
According to the Ministry of the Interior, 17,592 people have landed since January 1 in Italy, compared to 5,976 over the same period in 2022 and 5,995 in 2021, almost triple. The number of migrant arrivals via the Central Mediterranean route jumped 116% in January and February compared to 2022, according to Frontex.
03/11/2023 21:40:24 - Rome (AFP) - © 2023 AFP