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Twelve migrants lose their lives crossing the Mediterranean



(Rome) Twelve migrants have died trying to cross the central Mediterranean, Italian authorities and an NGO announced on Friday, in the midst of a debate on the tightening of the screws imposed by the far-right government on the rescue activities of NGOs.

The Italian coast guard recovered Thursday evening the bodies of eight migrants, five men and three women, including one pregnant, aboard a boat making the deadliest crossing in the world, that of the central Mediterranean.

The 42 survivors, taken to the small Italian island of Lampedusa, also claimed that “a man and a baby who fell into the sea during the crossing” died, the coast guard said in a statement. According to the Italian agency Ansa, it is a four-month-old baby that his mother deposited in the waves and a man who jumped to recover the body but drowned.

These new deaths plunged the mayor of Lampedusa Filippo Mannino into disarray. “I’ve lost count of the dead. I have been mayor for six months and I have already received at least 40 dead. This is not normal, almost every week we recover corpses, ”he lamented to AFP.

The island of Lampedusa, a territory of 20 km² located about a hundred kilometers east of the Tunisian coast in the heart of the Mediterranean, represents the first gateway to Europe for migrants arriving from North Africa.


At midday on Friday, the German NGO Sea-Eye indicated that its rescue vessel Sea-Eye 4 had rescued 109 people, including many children, during two operations overnight from Thursday to Friday, but she also recovered two bodies, including that of a mother.

“Over the past six years, on more than 20 missions, we have always arrived in time to prevent loss of life. But this time we arrived too late for two people, ”said Sea-Eye President Gorden Isler, quoted in a statement.

“They spent six days at the mercy of Europe’s brutal border regime. It is unforgivable,” he said.

These deaths come as immigration and the management of migrant flows will be on the agenda of the next extraordinary summit of the European Union on February 9 and 10.

On the front line, Italy has for years been one of the main gateways for immigration by sea from Africa to Europe, with a record 180,000 arrivals in 2016.

Rome hopes in particular to obtain an automatic redistribution of migrants arriving on its territory, an idea which comes up against strong resistance from many EU countries.

In an attempt to curb arrivals, Rome passed a new law in early January restricting the activities of immigrant rescue NGOs at sea, even though the number of people rescued by them is only around 10% of the total.

“Dramatic situation”

In 2022, around 105,000 migrants arrived in Italy and nearly 5,000 since the start of the year, a figure up sharply compared to the same period of the two previous years, indicates the website of the Ministry of Interior.

“The situation is getting really dramatic. Europe must do something, the government must do something”, underlined the mayor of Lampedusa.

The far-right government of Giorgia Meloni, in power since October, now requires NGO ships to inform the Italian authorities as soon as a boat is rescued. The authorities then decide on the port where survivors and rescuers should land.

It is quite often a distant port from the site of the rescue operation. In this way, NGOs cannot rescue several boats in several operations and lose a lot of time going to assigned ports and returning to the high seas.

This law has been criticized by several bodies of the Council of Europe.

According to figures from the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), 1,377 people died or went missing on this migration route in 2022 and 63 others since the beginning of the year.

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