Search for Dozens of Missing Migrants Continues After Shipwreck off Italy’s Southern Coast. Rescue crews are conducting search and rescue operations by air and sea in southern Italy for dozens of people who are still missing after a shipwreck that highlights the dangerous crossings that migrants undertake to reach Europe. The ship set sail from Turkey last week and was carrying an estimated 170 people, according to survivor reports. At least 80 people survived Sunday’s shipwreck, but rescue crews have recovered 60 bodies, including those of several children and the corpse of a young man on Monday morning. Dozens more are feared dead.
The shipwreck occurred off the Calabrian coast in stormy seas on the reefs offshore, and the beach at Steccato di Cutro on Calabria’s Ionian coast is now littered with the splintered remains of the ship, as well as the belongings of the migrants. These items include a toddler’s tiny pink sneaker and a yellow plastic pencil case decorated with pandas, and only a few life jackets were found among the debris.
On Monday, two coast guard vessels searched the seas from north to south off Steccato di Cutro while a helicopter flew overhead, and a four-wheel vehicle patrolled the beach. A strong wind whipped up the seas that still churned up splinters of the ship, gas tanks, food containers, and shoes. A pickup truck came to take away the body of the latest victim.
Firefighter Inspector Giuseppe Larosa, who arrived on the scene first, said that the bodies of the dead had scratches all over them, as if they had tried to hang onto the ship to save themselves. He also noted that many of the children were killed, and that he was struck by the survivors’ silence.
“What struck me was their silence. Terror in their eyes, but mute. Silent,” he said.
Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi, who has spearheaded Italy’s crackdown on migration, visited the scene on Sunday and met with local officials in Crotone. At a news conference, he insisted that the solution was to put an end to migrant crossings at their origin.
“I ask myself how it’s possible that these crossings are organized, pushing women and children to make the trips that end up tragically dangerous,” he said.
Italy’s government, under Premier Giorgia Meloni, has focused on trying to block migrant ships from departing, while discouraging humanitarian rescue teams from operating in the Mediterranean. Meloni said on Sunday that the government was committed to that policy “above all by insisting on the maximum collaboration with the countries of origin and departure.”
Italy has complained bitterly for years that fellow European Union countries have balked at taking in migrants, many of whom are aiming to find family or work in northern Europe. Italy is a prime destination, especially for smuggling operations launching boats from Libyan shores.
According to U.N. figures, arrivals from the Turkish route accounted for 15% of the 105,000 migrants who arrived on Italian shores last year, with nearly half of those fleeing from Afghanistan.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called for a redoubling of efforts to deal with the problem.
“The resulting loss of life of innocent migrants is a tragedy,” she said.
Meloni’s government has concentrated on complicating efforts by humanitarian boats to make multiple rescues in the central Mediterranean by assigning them ports of disembarkation along Italy’s northern coasts. That means the vessels need more time to return to the sea after bringing migrants aboard and taking them safely to shore.
Humanitarian organizations have lamented that the crackdown also includes an order to the charity boats not to remain at sea after the first rescue operation in hopes of performing other rescues, but to head immediately to their assigned port. Violators