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Coast guard rescues 1,300 migrants in Italy’s vessel mishap

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Coast guard, Six unidentified workers die in Lagos ship accident NIWA Kwara State

The coast guard said on Saturday that more than 1,300 migrants were rescued in three separate operations off the southern tip of Italy, two weeks after at least 74 people died when their boat collided with rocks near the coast.

The increasing number of migrant arrivals has put pressure on Italy’s conservative government, which took office in October promising to reduce the flow, only to see a sharp increase in such landings this year from both North Africa and Turkey.

The coast guard said one of its vessels picked up 500 migrants from a boat more than 100 miles (160 kilometers) out at sea and transported them to the city of Reggio Calabria.

A further 379 migrants were extracted from a separate vessel in the same area and will be brought to shore soon.

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“The rescues (were) complicated because the boats were overloaded with migrants and the sea conditions were unfavorable,” the coastguard said in a statement.

Another crowded fishing boat carrying 487 migrants was escorted into the Calabrian port of Crotone, where it was lashed to a tug for stability.

Local officials said a further 200 people had been picked up off the coast of Sicily and would be ferried to Catania later in the day, while the airforce was flying migrants out of a packed reception centre on the island of Lampedusa.

More than 17,000 people have reached Italy so far this year, including around 4,000 this week, compared to 6,000 in the first 2-1/2 months of 2022. Hundreds have also died trying to cross the Mediterranean and reach Europe.

Investigation
The body of a young girl was recovered on Saturday close to where a migrant boat broke apart on Feb. 26, bringing the death toll from that one disaster to 74. Seventy-nine people survived the shipwreck, but around 30 are still missing, presumed dead.

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In all, the United Nations estimates 300 migrants have died in the central Mediterranean so far this year.

Prosecutors are investigating whether Italian authorities should have done more to prevent the disaster. Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has rejected the suggestion and looked to pin the blame entirely on human traffickers.

Her cabinet on Thursday introduced tougher jail terms for people smugglers and promised to open up more channels for legal migration. Late last year, it cracked down on charity rescue boats, accusing them of acting as a taxi service for migrants.

The charities denied this was the case. The measure has led to a sharp reduction in the number of rescue ships patrolling the Mediterranean, without apparently dissuading migrants from putting to sea.

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Enrico Borghi, a senator with the center-left Democratic Party, accused the government of bungling the crisis.

“(It) thinks it can solve such a profound problem through media posturing, the criminal code, and fake efforts at appearing tough,” he wrote on Twitter. “The result: landings have tripled with the Meloni government.”

Meloni herself stated on Saturday, saying the only solution lay with a joint European effort to strengthen the EU’s borders and enhance cooperation with expulsions.

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