At least 59 deaths including a baby in migrant boat tragedy off Italian coast

Fifty-nine people, including a newborn baby and other children, have died after a wooden sailing boat believed to be carrying refugees crashed against rocks off the coast of Italy’s Calabria region.

According to survivors, there were about 140 to 150 people onboard the boat. Eighty-one people survived, with 20 of them taken to hospital.

“It was a tragedy, this morning, to see those scenes of children given back from the sea, bodies, harrowing scenes,” said Antonio Ceraso, Mayor of Cutro.

Father Rosario Morrone, Parish priest of Botricello, visited the scene: "They have found two bodies also on the beach in my parish. I’ve blessed them but while I was blessing them I asked myself why do we always arrive after death? We should arrive before death.”

Antonino Durso/Antonino Durso/LaPresse
Rescued migrants sit covered in blankets at a beach near Cutro, southern Italy, Sunday, Feb. 26, 2023 - Antonino Durso/Antonino Durso/LaPresse

The vessel is believed to have left Turkey four days ago with people from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan onboard.

A Turkish national has been detained on suspicion of human trafficking, according to the Ansa news agency.

The boat is reported to have sailed from Turkey - Cleared

In a statement, Prime minister Giorgia Meloni repeated her government’s commitment to “preventing departures and along with them the tragedies that unfold”.

Only a few days ago, the Italian parliament passed a controversial law. It forces rescue ships to carry out only one rescue operation per mission.

According to NGOs, this significantly increases the risk of deaths in the Mediterranean.