Around 40 missing in Italy migrant boat shipwreck: UN

Rome (AFP) – Around 40 people are missing after a migrant boat capsized off the Italian island of Lampedusa, the UN said on Friday. The shipwreck took place on Thursday and at least one newborn baby is among those missing, said UNHCR representative to Italy Chiara Cardoletti.

The vessel left from Sfax in Tunisia and was carrying 46 migrants from Cameroon, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, said Flavio Di Giacomo, a spokesman for the UN migration agency IOM. The boat capsized in strong winds and high waves, he said. “Some survivors were taken to Lampedusa and others were brought back to Tunisia”.

“Among those missing were seven women and a minor. The survivors are all adult men”, he added. “We have noticed more arrivals of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa than Tunisians” via the Tunisian route since November, he said.

He explained this was due to people from sub-Saharan Africa fleeing discrimination in Tunisia. “It is unacceptable to continue counting the dead at the gates of Europe”, Cardoletti wrote on Twitter. “A coordinated and shared rescue mechanism at sea between states is now also a matter of conscience.”

The southern Italian island of Lampedusa is one of the main entry points for migrants crossing the Mediterranean. Last year, more than 46,000 people arrived there, out of a total of 105,000 in Italy, according to the UNHCR.

Migrant boat shipwrecks have increased in recent months, while the number of migrants entering the EU via the central Mediterranean “more than doubled” in 2023 compared to the same period last year, according to the European border agency Frontex in mid-June.

Last week a crammed trawler from Libya sank off the Greek coast. The death toll stands at 82, with 104 survivors pulled from the water, but witness accounts suggest many hundreds more went down with the ship, with their remains still missing at sea.