Status: 03/11/2023 5:09 p.m
In rough seas, with partly unseaworthy and completely overcrowded boats, many migrants tried to cross the Mediterranean again. The Italian Coast Guard brought more than 1,300 people safely ashore.
After several rescue operations in the Mediterranean, more than 1,300 people have been brought to Italian ports from overcrowded boats. The rescued migrants were taken to various Italian ports and landed there, the Italian Coast Guard and Navy said.
According to the coast guard, the large-scale rescue operation this weekend had already begun on Friday after three refugee boats were discovered off the Italian coast.
Weather conditions made the rescue difficult
Coast Guard videos show a large fishing boat with dozens of people on deck at night, tossing in rough seas. Other footage shows life rafts approaching another fishing boat full of people. Because of the difficult weather conditions and the large number of people, the operation was “extraordinarily complex,” the authorities said.
On Saturday night, 487 migrants reached Italy in a small fishing boat. The Coast Guard escorted the boat to Crotone in Calabria. According to the Ansa news agency, 584 other migrants were brought to Reggio de Calabria and the occupants of the third refugee boat disembarked in Augusta, Sicily.
74 dead at the end of February
Italy’s coast guard is already being criticized for not initially helping more than 150 migrants in a boat at the end of February.
Now – two weeks after the accident – emergency services pulled the body of a five to six-year-old girl out of the water. The child is the 74th victim of the refugee boat that crashed just a few meters off the Calabrian coast. 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. The right-wing extremist Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni announced on Thursday after a meeting of the Council of Ministers that smugglers and backers should face prison sentences of up to 30 years 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.