ROME: Twelve migrants have died in the Central Mediterranean, Italian officials and a rescue charity said on Friday, as a debate rages over Rome’s crackdown on NGOs operating in the world’s deadliest crossing.
Italy’s coastguard recovered the bodies of eight migrants – five men and three women, one of whom was pregnant – in a boat late on Thursday.
The 42 survivors on board, who were brought to the tiny island of Lampedusa, said the bodies of a baby and a man had been lost at sea, the coastguard said on Friday.
Separately, German charity Sea-Eye said its ship Sea-Eye 4 rescued 109 people, including numerous children, in two operations in the central Mediterranean overnight. They also recovered two bodies.
“In the past six years, in more than two dozen missions, we always arrived in time to prevent the loss of life. But this time we arrived too late for two people,” Sea-Eye chairman Gorden Isler said.
“They were at the mercy of Europe’s brutal border regime for six days. That is unforgivable.” The deaths come ahead of a European Council summit next week at which Italy’s Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will push for greater assistance from the bloc on managing boat migrants.
Italy’s geographical position makes it a prime destination for asylum seekers crossing from North Africa to Europe, and Rome has long complained about the number of arrivals.
Meloni was visiting Berlin and Stockholm on Friday as she attempted to rally support for EU mechanisms to boost repatriations and readmissions of migrants whose asylum bids fail. Her right-wing government has also sought to limit the actions of charity vessels that rescue migrants, sparking criticism from the Council of Europe that the policy would risk lives.
Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2023
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