Italy tightens the penalties for smuggling after the migrant tragedy

ROME — Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on Thursday took a planned crackdown on people smugglers to the southern city near the coast, where a wooden boat full of migrants broke apart, leaving many dead and many missing.

Meloni and his ministers flew to Calabria, at the tip of the Italian peninsula, to hold a government meeting in Cutro’s town hall.

Meloni, anti-migrant leader Matteo Salvini, who heads the infrastructure ministry that includes the coast guard, and Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani posed outside the town hall after being greeted by the local bishop and other dignitaries.

The cabinet was widely expected to approve much tougher penalties for smugglers who steer unseaworthy boats crammed with migrants to Italy’s shores.

They are also expected to adopt measures to make it easier for refugees to access so-called humanitarian corridors to Europe as they flee persecution or war in their home countries.

Many of the dead and survivors of the February 26 tragedy fled Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, hoping to join their families in Italy and other Western European countries.

See also  Punk icon Lydon failed to participate in the Eurovision Song Contest

A 72nd body was found earlier this week, nine days after the boat hit a sandbar off Steccato di Cutro beach, took on water and broke apart.

Eighty people survived, many of them staggering ashore after swimming out of the wreckage. Dozens are still missing from the wreckage of the ship, which survivors say left Turkey days earlier with about 180 people on board.

Opposition leaders and humanitarian groups condemned the decision by Italian authorities not to quickly dispatch coast guard rescue boats after a Frontex patrol plane spotted the wooden boat about 40 nautical miles (72 kilometers) off the coast of Calabria hours before the pre-dawn wreck on Cutro beach. unfavorable sea conditions.

Frontex is the border and coast guard agency of the European Union.

Earlier this week, the Italian Minister of the Interior, who implements the government’s migration policy, insisted in his speech to the legislators that Frontex – in its statement to the Italian authorities – did not show any signs of distress and did not send anyone on board the ill-fated ship. issue any alarm.

See also  The arrest sparked violence in the Mexican border city of Nuevo Laredo

Despite Meloni’s government calling for a crackdown, hundreds of migrants have landed on the southern island of Lampedusa in recent days.

Many arrived without rescue. Italian coast guard and border police vessels pulled dozens of other people from the sea this week in the central Mediterranean. Among them, 45 migrants, including five newborns, were rescued on Wednesday, and another 38 were rescued by the coast guard after their boat sank in the Maltese air rescue sector.

In another Italian coast guard operation, 20 migrants were rescued when their boat from Sfax, Tunisia ran into trouble, and the body of a woman was found, Italian state television said.

By Thursday afternoon, more than 1,300 migrants had reached Lampedusa by sea in recent days, and authorities had dispatched a large ferry from Sicily to transfer some of them from the island’s chronically overcrowded temporary migrant accommodation.

On Thursday, dozens of townspeople showed up in solidarity with the migrants in Cutro, the town of eight thousand people, where schools were closed and the area fenced off for security reasons for the government meeting. Some of the town’s fishermen dived into the sea to save the living and the dead from the disaster.

See also  The movie "Winnie the Pooh" comes from Hong Kong cinemas

Relatives of the survivors staged a sit-in earlier this week and blocked a road in Cutro to prevent the bodies from being transferred to a Muslim cemetery, which has a site in the northern city of Bologna. On Thursday, Italy’s interior ministry said it was working to accommodate families’ wishes to bury their loved ones where they want.

So far, the body of an Afghan migrant has been buried in Calabria, a Tunisian victim has been transported to Tunisia, an Afghan victim has been transported to Germany, and four bodies have been returned to Pakistan. On Wednesday, seven bodies were transported to the Muslim cemetery in Bologna, while others were about to be sent to Germany and Afghanistan.


Follow AP’s coverage of global migration here