Seven migrants have died while trying to reach Italy’s Lampedusa island, Italian news agencies reported Tuesday, citing local authorities.
The migrants, presumed to have died of hypothermia, were on a boat carrying another 280 people that was intercepted overnight some 24 nautical miles south of Lampedusa.
Three were found dead on board the vessel, while another four passed away while all passengers were being brought ashore by Italian coast guard and border police units. The people on the boat are thought to be all Bangladeshi nationals.
“Yet another tragedy, yet again we are mourning innocent victims,” Lampedusa Mayor Toto Martello said, renewing complaints that his island had been “forgotten” by the Italian government and EU authorities. “We cannot go on alone for much longer,” he added.
Lampedusa is Italy’s southernmost point, and a frequent landing point for migrants taking the sea route to escape from Libya or Tunisia. People on the tiny island routinely protest that they cannot act as one of the gateways to Europe without outside help.
Meanwhile, the prosecutors’ office of Agrigento opened an investigation for manslaughter in connection to the deaths. If any of the migrants who were rescued were to be identified as commanders of the boat, they could face charges.
Most of the migrants who arrive in Italy from North Africa are looking to travel on to wealthier countries in northern Europe. But mass arrivals have hardened public attitudes toward migration, and contributed to a rise in support for far-right parties.
Last year, there were around 64,500 landings, and arrivals surged in recent weeks. According to Interior Ministry data, there were 1,751 sea arrivals during Jan. 1-24, compared to 379 in the same period of 2021, and 774 in the same period of 2020.
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