At least two migrants dead, 30 missing in shipwrecks off Italy’s coast

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Two people died and around 30 more are missing at sea after two migrant shipwrecks off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, the coastguard said on Sunday, adding that 57 people had been rescued.

In a separate operation, 34 migrants were airlifted by helicopter from a cliff in Lampedusa on which they had been stranded since late Friday following another shipwreck, the Italian mountain rescue service said.

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A child and two pregnant women were among them, it added.

Italy is experiencing a surge in sea migration, with almost 92,000 arrivals so far this year, according to interior ministry data as of Friday, compared with around 43,000 in the same period in 2022.

The coastguard said they carried out a “complex” rescue south of Lampedusa on Saturday, picking up the passengers of two sunken migrant boats that had probably set off from Tunisia’s Sfax, a hot spot in the migration crisis there.

In a statement, the coastguard described the two dead migrants as a woman and a child. Italy’s Ansa news agency earlier identified them as a mother and one-year-old child from the Ivory Coast.

Ansa cited survivors as saying one vessel was carrying 48 people and the second 42. Survivors and bodies were picked up 23 nautical miles (46 km) south-west of Lampedusa, it said.

‘Crazy criminal’

The shipwrecks happened in very rough seas.

Provincial police chief Emanuele Ricifari was quoted by local news website Agrigento Oggi as saying that whoever allowed the migrants to sail in such bad weather “is a crazy criminal with no scruples.”

More than 2,000 people have arrived in Lampedusa in the last few days after being rescued at sea by Italian patrol boats and NGO groups amid strong winds around the island.

On Sunday, Spanish NGO group Open Arms said it was finally allowed to disembark 195 rescued migrants in the southern
Italian port of Brindisi, after more than two days of sailing in rough seas.

Italy’s right-wing government has a policy of assigning far-away ports to charity ships, rather than letting them disembark migrants in Lampedusa or Sicily, with the aim of spreading arrivals across the country.

NGOs say this increases their navigation costs, prolongs the misery of survivors, and reduces the amount of time charity ships can patrol areas of the Mediterranean where shipwrecks are more common.

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