Italian Coast Guard: Hundreds of migrants rescued from distress at sea

Status: 03/11/2023 2:08 p.m

The Italian Coast Guard rescued about 600 migrants. Hundreds more were escorted ashore in a rickety fishing boat. But many people are still adrift in rough seas in the Mediterranean.

After several rescue operations in the Mediterranean, the Italian coast guard brought about 600 migrants ashore. The people had been taken on board from overcrowded boats on the high seas.

Because of the difficult weather conditions and the large number of people, the operation was “extraordinarily complex,” the authorities said. The Coast Guard landed the migrants in the port of the southern Italian city of Reggio Calabria. Strong winds and increasingly rough seas are predicted for the weekend.

Hundreds more migrants in unseaworthy boats

On Saturday night, 487 migrants reached Italy in a small fishing boat. The Coast Guard escorted the boat to Crotone.

Another 200 people were admitted off the coast of Sicily, according to local authorities. They should be taken to Catania. Hundreds of migrants are still floating in the sea on boats that are actually unseaworthy, the authorities said.

At the end of February, 74 people died

Italy’s coast guard has been heavily criticized in the past few days because it initially failed to come to the aid of a boat with more than 150 migrants at the end of February. The boat capsized.

Today – two weeks after the accident – emergency services pulled the body of a girl out of the water. In all, at least 74 people died. According to information from the EU border protection agency Frontex, various authorities had shifted responsibility for the boat back and forth. The Coast Guard would have had seagoing vessels.

Italy’s Interior Ministry counted several thousand boat migrants who arrived on the mainland or on the island of Lampedusa in the past few days. As of Thursday evening, more than 15,800 migrants have been registered since the beginning of the year. In the two previous years there were about 6000 at this point.

Stricter penalties for smugglers

The rescue operations come two days after the Italian government announced tougher penalties for people smugglers. Far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced Thursday after a Council of Ministers meeting that smugglers and backers could face up to 30 years in prison if fatal accidents occur during irregular crossings.

“We wanted to send a symbolic and concrete signal,” Meloni said of the decree. “I want to fight and defeat these people.” Meloni announced that the new catalog of penalties not only affects people smugglers and smugglers caught on Italian territory or in Italian waters, but worldwide.

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