‘30 people’ found dead on migrant boat near Sicily
Italian navy rescused thousands of others trying to cross from North Africa at weekend
A file image of migrants sitting on a boat during a rescue operation by the Italian navy some 60km off the coast of Libya earlier this month. The Italian navy found some 30 people dead on a migrant boat this weekend and rescued about 5,000 others. Photograph: Marina Militare/Handout via Reuters.
The dead are thought to have either drowned or suffocated on the overcrowded fishing vessel, the navy said.
The discovery underlined the scale of the crisis in the waters of the southern Mediterranean, where hundreds have died making the perilous journey to Europe, and tens of thousands more have been plucked from rickety boats.
More than 5,000 people were rescued this weekend, adding to the 50,000 migrants who have reached Italy from North Africa so far this year, many fleeing war and forced conscription.
At the current rate, the figures should soon pass the record of 62,000 people who arrived by sea in 2011, when numbers swelled amid the “Arab Spring” uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East.
An Italian ship, part of the navy’s migrant rescue mission Mare Nostrum or “Our Sea”, was due to arrive at the Sicilian port of Pozzallo later today towing the fishing boat and carrying 566 survivors.
The navy said thousands of others rescued this weekend would arrive in other ports in southern Italy today and tomorrow.
Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi said last week the EU should take responsibility for rescuing boat migrants by investing in regional border control agency Frontex.
“Thirty more deaths on the consciences of those who defend ‘Their Seas’. Stop the departures, help them at home, now! Renzi and Alfano have blood on their shirts, don’t they?” he said in a Facebook post.