Two migrant boats sink off near Italian Lampedusa
Italy’s coastguard said on Sunday it had recovered two bodies and rescued 57 people off the southern island of Lampedusa, amid reports that more than 30 people were missing after two shipwrecks.
The Ansa news agency, citing survivors’ accounts, reported that two migrant boats that had set off from the port of Sfax, a hotspot for Tunisia’s migration crisis, had sunk on Saturday on their way to Europe.
One was carrying 48 people, the second 42, Ansa said, adding that the coastguard found the survivors about 23 nautical miles (43km) south-west of Lampedusa, as well as the two victims – a woman from Ivory Coast and her one-year-old child.
A coastguard spokesperson said he could only confirm the number of survivors and the recovery of two bodies.
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, as strong winds further complicate the situation around the island.
About 20 people have been stuck since Friday on a cliff after their boat crashed against rocks upon arrival in Lampedusa, with the coastguard unable to reach them via sea or helicopter, local media said.
On Sunday, the NGO group Open Arms wrote on the X social media site that it had finally begun disembarking 195 people rescued at sea in the southern Italian port of Brindisi after more than two days of sailing in rough seas.
Italy’s rightwing government has adopted a policy of assigning far-away ports to charity ships, rather than letting them disembark rescued people in nearer Lampedusa or Sicily, with the aim of spreading arrivals across the country.
NGOs complain that this increases their navigation costs, prolongs the misery of survivors, and reduces the amount of time charity ships can patrol the areas of the Mediterranean where shipwrecks are more common.
Italy is experiencing a sharp increase in sea migration, with almost 92,000 arrivals recorded so far this year, according to interior ministry data last updated on Friday, compared with more than 42,600 in the same period in 2022.