Dozens of children die in boat crash with migrants in Italy

Key points
  • About 60 migrants drowned after their wooden boat crashed into rocks off the coast of Italy.
  • One survivor was arrested on charges of migrant trafficking.
  • The ship, carrying migrants from Afghanistan, Iran and other countries, left Turkey on Sunday.
Authorities said 58 people, including several children, were killed when a wooden sailboat carrying migrants crashed into rocks on Italy’s south coast.
The ship left Turkey a few days ago with migrants from Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries and was wrecked early Sunday in stormy weather near Steccato di Cutro, a seaside resort on the east coast of Calabria.

Preliminary figures put the death toll at 58, provincial government spokesman Manuela Curra told Reuters. According to her, 81 people survived, 20 were hospitalized, including one person in intensive care.

Guardia di Finanza customs police said one survivor was arrested on charges of migrant trafficking.
Cutro Mayor Antonio Seraso said women and children were among the dead. There is no exact data on how many children have died yet.

In a cracked voice, Mr. Seraso told news channel SkyTG24 that he saw “a sight you would never want to see in your life… a terrible sight… that will stay with you for the rest of your life.”

The wreckage of a wooden gulet, a Turkish sailboat, was strewn across a large stretch of coastline.
Ms Kurra said the ship left Izmir in eastern Turkey three or four days ago, adding that survivors say there were between 140 and 150 people on board.

The survivors were mostly from Afghanistan, with a few from Pakistan and a couple from Somalia, she said, adding that it was harder to determine the nationality of the dead.

Calabria in Crotona 45 migrants died in the wreck of a boat wrecked by stormy seas

Survivors of a shipwreck off the Steccato di Cutro that drowned 45 migrants, including children, receive help from non-governmental organizations and Italian officials on February 26, 2023. Source: AARP / Antonino D’Urso

“Many of these migrants came from Afghanistan and Iran, fleeing harsh conditions,” Italian President Sergio Mattarella said.

Initial reports from ANSA and other Italian news agencies said 27 bodies had washed ashore and more were found in the water.

Ignazio Mangione, a spokesman for the Italian Red Cross, told SkyTG24 that very few of the children believed to have been on the boat survived.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed “deep sorrow” over the death. Blaming human traffickers, she vowed to block sea shipments of migrants to prevent such disasters.
Her right-wing administration has taken a tough stance on migration since taking office in October, largely by curtailing migrant rescue charities through tough new laws that received final parliamentary approval on Thursday.

Ms Meloni accuses charities of encouraging migrants to make dangerous sea journeys to Italy, acting as so-called “pull factors”.

Charities dismiss this, saying migrants are on their way regardless of whether there are rescue boats nearby.
“Stopping, blocking and obstructing the work of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) will have only one effect: the death of vulnerable people left without help,” Spanish migrant rescue charity Open Arms tweeted in response to the shipwreck on Sunday.

In a separate statement, Italian Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi said it was necessary to end maritime travel, which he said offers migrants an “illusory mirage of a better life” in Europe, enriches traffickers and causes such tragedies.

Pope Francis, the son of Italian immigrants in Argentina and a long-time activist for migrants’ rights, said he is praying for anyone involved in an accident.
Italy is one of the main disembarkation points for migrants trying to cross into Europe by sea, with many seeking to travel to the richer Nordic countries. The so-called central Mediterranean route is known as one of the most dangerous in the world.

Since 2014, the UN Missing Migrants Project has recorded more than 17,000 deaths and disappearances in the central Mediterranean. He estimates that more than 220 people have died or gone missing this year.