Death toll from migrant boat shipwreck off Italian coast could exceed 100
Officials in southern Italy believe the death toll from a migrant boat shipwreck over the weekend could eventually rise to more than 100. On Sunday morning, a wooden vessel smashed into rocks just off the coast of the southern Italian region of Calabria.
It was believed to have been carrying around 200 migrants from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Pakistan. At least 62 people have been confirmed dead so far, including some children.
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The wooden vessel was seen approaching the Italian coast by a plane operated by Frontex, the European Union's border agency. Patrol boats were sent out but forced to turn back due to rough seas. More than 80 people were rescued by Italian authorities.
Responding to the tragedy, Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her "deep sorrow" and also pledged to crack down on human trafficking groups. The central Mediterranean is one of the busiest sea routes in the world for migrants trying to reach the EU from northern Africa and the Middle East.
The boat that went down on Sunday set off from Türkiye several days ago. Just last week, Meloni's right-wing coalition government introduced a new code of conduct for charities operating rescue vessels in the Mediterranean Sea.
Under the new rules, the ships will need to request permission to dock at an Italian port immediately after making a rescue. In the past, they often stayed out at sea after assisting a migrant boat in case other boats in the area required help.
Speaking in Geneva at the start of a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for "safe, legal routes for migrants and refugees."
"Every person searching for a better life deserves safety and dignity," said Guterres.
In a statement on Twitter, the UN International Organization for Migration's head Antonio Vitorino added: "The continuing intolerable loss of life in the Mediterranean shows once again that saving lives must always take priority in migration policies."
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