You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Migrant bodies recovered off Italy's Lampedusa island

The National logo The National 03/02/2023 Simon Rushton
Police officers on the quay wait for a boat containing the bodies of migrants in Lampedusa. EPA © Concetta Rizzo Police officers on the quay wait for a boat containing the bodies of migrants in Lampedusa. EPA

Ten people died attempting to reach the Italian island of Lampedusa, Italian authorities said on Friday.

Eight bodies were found on a fishing boat packed with people and two — a newborn baby and a man — were lost at sea, survivors of the voyage told rescuers. Another 42 people were rescued.

Lampedusa and other Mediterranean islands in Italy and Greece are popular landing points for people smugglers trafficking migrants from North Africa to southern Europe.

Video of the rescue showed survivors packed in a small open fishing boat, which was adrift with a nonfunctioning motor.

Rescuers warned them to sit down and not move before throwing a line out and pulling them to safety.

“Yet another night of rescues, flashing lights, ambulances, buses carrying humanity, eyes wide with fear, men saving lives,” Lampedusa Mayor Filippo Mannino wrote on Facebook.

“How much longer must all this go on? How many more corpses must this island receive?”

Charity rescue ships used to operate in large numbers off the coast of Libya, looking to pick up migrant boats, but the new Italian government has imposed strict limits on their activities.

“It is unacceptable that a shipwreck in the Maltese search and rescue region has once again claimed victims when it could have been avoided. It is time for these tragedies to stop,” Doctors Without Borders wrote on Twitter.

All on board were soaking wet, cold and dehydrated, and the deceased were believed to have perished from hypothermia, Italy's Ansa news agency reported.

Survivors said they had departed the Tunisian port of Sfax before dawn on Saturday.

They were among about 200 migrants, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa, who arrived at Lampedusa on three boats overnight.

Mr Mannino appealed to Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, for help, urging “the government not leave us alone to manage this enormous tragedy”.

“Help us. We are no longer able to manage.”

The central Mediterranean Sea is a perilous crossing that has claimed 20,285 lives since the UN migration office began tracking figures in 2014.

Another 5,000 have died in the Eastern and Western Mediterranean combined.

Many of the victims go missing at sea and are presumed dead, based on survivor accounts.

About 4,963 migrants have reached Italy by sea so far this year, compared to 3,035 in the same period in 2022 and 1,039 in 2021, interior ministry data shows.

In 2022, 105,140 boat migrants arrived in Italy, compared to 67,477 the year before and 34,154 in 2020. The UN estimates that about 1,400 migrants died while trying to cross the central Mediterranean in 2022.

More from The National

The National
The National
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon