41 migrants dead in shipwreck off coast of Italy, survivors say

Forty-one migrants are believed to have perished in a shipwreck in the central Mediterranean, according to survivors who have reached the Italian island of Lampedusa. Local public prosecutor Salvatore Vella has confirmed that four survivors from the shipwreck have reported being on a boat carrying 45 people, including three children. An investigation is currently underway.

The survivors stated that the 7-meter-long boat departed from Tunisia’s Sfax on Thursday morning but capsized and sank a few hours later after being hit by a large wave. According to Italian news agency Ansa, only about a dozen individuals were wearing life vests. The survivors, consisting of a 13-year-old boy, a woman, and two men, arrived in Lampedusa almost six days after the sinking of their boat. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), Unicef, and UNHCR released a joint statement confirming their arrival.

Rescue group Sea-Watch reported that its surveillance plane spotted the survivors being rescued by a cargo ship. They were then transferred to an Italian coast guard vessel and disembarked in Lampedusa, where they shared their harrowing story. The Italian Red Cross and Sea-Watch stated that the survivors managed to survive by clinging to life jackets or other inflatable rubber devices and later finding an empty boat at sea, where they spent several days adrift without food or drinking water.

Upon their arrival in Lampedusa, the survivors were exhausted and in a state of shock. They are now scheduled to be questioned by the police. A doctor who treated them stated that the survivors had minor wounds and were suffering from dehydration, but nothing serious. They recounted that another boat had initially ignored them, but they were eventually rescued by an oil tanker.

The dangerous journey across the Mediterranean has claimed the lives of more than 1,800 people this year alone, as reported by the IOM. Since 2014, over 17,000 deaths and disappearances have been recorded in the central Mediterranean, making it the most perilous crossing in the world.

Lampedusa has been the first destination for thousands of migrants undertaking this treacherous journey for years. Recently, over 2,000 people arrived after being rescued by the Italian coast guard and NGO ships. The UN agencies emphasized the need for governments to allocate more resources to search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean. However, there is little enthusiasm among EU capitals for this expensive and politically sensitive endeavor.

Italy has observed a significant increase in migrant arrivals by sea this year. The country’s hard-right government, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, has implemented anti-immigration measures to reduce the number of arrivals. This includes imposing hefty fines on boats that fail to request a port and head directly to it after a rescue. The government also restricts boats from accessing ports in Lampedusa or Sicily, forcing them to make longer journeys and limiting their ability to conduct multiple rescues.

Tunisian authorities reported the recovery of 11 bodies from a shipwreck near Sfax, with 44 migrants still missing. Last month, the EU signed a comprehensive deal with Tunisia worth approximately €1 billion (£860 million), aimed at addressing irregular migration into the bloc.

In conclusion, the tragic shipwreck in the central Mediterranean highlights the ongoing dangers faced by migrants attempting to cross to Europe. The survivors’ accounts shed light on the harsh conditions and desperate struggles endured during their journey. Urgent action and increased resources are necessary to prevent further loss of life on this perilous route.

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