After about 500 defectors were disembarked from a fishing boat in the port of Crotone in the south of Italy at night, the Italian Coast Guard transported almost 600 more defectors to the south of Italy, who were rescued in three rescue operations in the Mediterranean.
The Italian Coast Guard ship Dattilo with 584 defectors of unknown nationality anchored today in the port of the capital of Calabria. According to the information known so far, there are around 70 women and children on the ship.
Three Italian coast guard vessels escorted a fishing boat in poor condition carrying 487 defectors to Calabria overnight. According to the Crotone Police Department, all of them are men, and around 40 of them are minors. Among the rescued defectors are 370 Pakistanis, 85 Egyptians and 35 Afghans. At night they all disembarked.
Investigators believe the ship left the port of Tobruk in Libya and took five days to reach Calabria. The police have already started an investigation to identify the smugglers and find out the boat’s port of origin.
The fishing vessel was spotted on Friday afternoon some 70 miles off the Calabrian coast following a warning from the EU’s border agency Frontex. Coast Guard units intercepted her off the coast of Crotone and, despite the bad conditions and overcrowding, safely transported her to the harbor with the help of a tugboat.
Since Friday, the Italian Coast Guard has participated in several rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea. President of the southern Italian region of Calabria Roberto Occhiuto said there were a total of about 1,300 defectors on the boats that Frontex had warned could run into trouble.
At least 30 minors died
Italy also reported today that the bodies of two five- or six-year-old girls were found in the sea, making them the 74th and 75th confirmed victims of the deadly shipwreck off the coast of Calabria on February 26. Another 30 people are missing. At least 30 minors died in the fishing boat wreck, and 21 victims were under the age of 12.
Meanwhile, in the town of Cutro in southern Italy, more than 5,000 people gathered and in a protest accused the government of negligent delay in rescuing defectors from the ship. The protest march under the slogan “Stop the carnage now” was called by the refugee group Rete Asilo, and was attended by dozens of associations, political parties, unions and movements from all over Italy.
Protesters walked behind a cross made from the wood of a sunken ship that broke in half in rough seas after hitting rocks. Among the participants was a supporter of the defectors and the former mayor of the Calabrian town of Riace. Domenico Lucano, who is facing a prison sentence for violating immigration regulations. “Sometimes I’m ashamed to be a westerner,” he told reporters.
They started the protest march at the entrance to the city and ended it on the shore, where three more bodies of shipwreck victims were found today, including the bodies of two girls.
Since the beginning of this year, 17,500 defectors have arrived in Italy across the Mediterranean Sea, which is significantly more than in the same period last year, when there were 5,976. According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, most of the defectors come from the Ivory Coast, Guinea, Bangladesh and Tunisia.