Italian boats bring hundreds of migrants ashore

Several Italian Navy and Coast Guard ships ferried hundreds of rescued migrants ashore on Saturday, while elsewhere in the Mediterranean thousands of migrants overflowed from a shelter on a tiny resort island.

The influx of migrants arriving by sea came after Italy’s right-wing government launched a campaign against human traffickers just two days earlier.

The coast guard said in a statement that overcrowding on two boats and adverse sea and weather conditions had complicated rescue operations that began on Friday in the Ionian Sea off Calabria.

A 310-foot (94-meter) Coast Guard vessel took 584 migrants aboard, while two smaller Coast Guard motorboats loaded 379, then transferred them to an Italian naval vessel headed for Augusta. , a port in eastern Sicily, while migrant shelters in Calabria were rapidly filling up.

Meanwhile, a boat carrying 487 people, intercepted on Friday by Italian ships some 60 nautical miles (112 kilometers) off Crotone, in Calabria, was helped by two Coast Guard boats and a Border Police boat. . The migrants disembarked in the port of Crotone before dawn on Saturday.

It was a beach in Cutro, a town south of Crotone, where survivors and bodies were found on February 26 after a wooden boat, packed with migrants that had left Turkey days earlier, crashed into a sandbank.

The official death toll from the shipwreck rose to 76 on Saturday, with the body of a girl being the last to be recovered from the sea, according to the Italian news agency ANSA. Eighty passengers survived the wreck, but many more were reported missing and presumed dead.

Italian prosecutors are investigating whether authorities should have quickly launched a rescue operation after a patrol plane operated by Frontex, the European Union’s border protection agency, spotted the wooden boat hours before dozens of it were torn to pieces. meters (yards) from the beach.

Some 5,000 people, walking behind a person carrying a cross made from the wreckage of the ship, joined a procession to the beach in Cutro on Saturday, demanding greater efforts to save migrants at sea.

The United Nations migration agency estimates that some 300 people have died this year, or are missing and presumed dead, after trying to cross the dangerous central Mediterranean route.

The Turkish coast guard said on Saturday that its staff rescued 11 migrants off the coast of Turkey’s Aydin province after their rubber dinghy burst and began to fill with water. The bodies of five people have been recovered, while the search for other possible survivors and victims continued, the coast guard said in a statement.

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