At least 59 people, including twelve children, one of them a newborn baby, died tragically in an accident on the Ionian Sea off the coast of southern Italy when a migrant boat carrying around 150 people from Turkey to Europe ran into difficulty.
Mayor Antonio Ceraso of Cutro described the deadly accident as a “gruesome sight that stays with you for all your life,” It has highlighted the dangers of illegal immigration and the urgent need for greater cooperation between states of origin and destination for migrants.
Survivors reported 140-150 people onboard, but some are still missing. The migrant boat, which set sail from Izmir in western Turkey four days ago and was intercepted by patrol boats in rough sea conditions, had taken an unfortunate turn near Steccato di Cutro. According to reports the boat hit rocks and ultimately capsized.
The search by emergency services revealed the tragic scale of the accident, with multiple bodies retrieved, some by a strong current, far away from the wreckage. The boat carried passengers from Afghanistan, Iran, and many other countries.
Far-right Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni expressed her “deep pain” at the tragedy, emphasizing the “criminal” act of putting a boat of merely twenty meters in length, carrying 200 people onboard, to sea amidst a forecast of bad weather.
Centrist former economy minister Carlo Calenda said those trying to help those in need at sea should receive help rather than face legal repercussions.
Pope Francis offered his prayers and lent his support to those impacted by the tragedy, thanking emergency services and volunteers who are assisting migrants helping them in the wake of the accident.
So far in 2021, nearly 14,000 migrants have arrived in Italy by sea, showing a marked increase over last year’s 5,200 and the year before’s 4,200.
The tragedy of the migrant boat sinking off the coast of southern Italy is a stark reminder of the human cost at play when seeking a better life elsewhere. It is a timely reminder of the dangers of illegal immigration and the need for greater cooperation and well-coordinated rescue operations.