Migrants on death voyage which claimed 65 lives ‘paid £7,000 to smugglers’

Italian costguard at the scene on a beach in Calabria.  (AFP via Getty Images)
Italian costguard at the scene on a beach in Calabria. (AFP via Getty Images)

The death toll from Italy’s latest migration tragedy to 65 as prosecutors identified suspected smugglers who allegedly charged 8,000 euros (just over £7,000) for each person making the boat journey from Turkey to Italy.

Desperate relatives and friends are in the Calabrian city of Crotone in hope of finding their loved ones, some of whom originally came from Afghanistan.

At least 65 people, including 14 minors, died when their overcrowded wooden boat slammed into shoals 100 meters (yards) off the shore of Cutro and broke apart early Sunday in rough seas.

Eighty people survived, but many more are feared dead since survivors indicated the boat had carried about 170 people when it set off last week from Izmir, Turkey.

Aladdin Mohibzada, who drove from Germany to the makeshift morgue where the bodies are being held, said: “I am looking for my aunt and her three children.”

He said he had ascertained that his aunt and two of the children died, but that a 5-year-old survived and was being sheltered in a center for minors.

“We are looking into possibilities to send (the bodies) to Afghanistan, the bodies that are here,” he told The Associated Press outside the morgue.

But he complained about a lack of information as authorities scrambled to cope with the disaster. “We are helpless here. We don’t know what we should do.”

Aid groups at the scene have said many of the passengers hailed from Afghanistan, including entire families, as well as from Pakistan, Syria and Iraq. Rescue teams pulled two bodies from the sea on Tuesday, bringing the toll to 65, police said.

Italalian Premier Giorgia Meloni sent a letter to European leaders demanding quick action on the continent’s longstanding migration problem, insisting that migrants must be stopped from risking their lives on dangerous sea crossings.

She told Italian television brodcaster RAI Uno: “The point is, the more people who set off, the more people risk dying.”

Crotone prosecutor Giuseppe Capoccia confirmed investigators had identified three suspected smugglers, a Turk and two Pakistani nationals. A second Turk is believed to have escaped or died in the wreck.

Italy’s border police said in a statement that organizers of the crossing charged 8,000 euros (around $8,500) each for the “voyage of death.

Piantedosi told a parliamentary committee that the ship ran aground and broke apart at around 5 a.m. Sunday.

“There was no delay,” Piantedosi told Corriere della Sera. “Everything possible was done in absolutely prohibitive sea conditions.”