At least 60 people, including 12 children, have died after a boat carrying refugees sank off the Italian coastal city of Crotone in the southern region of Calabria. The vessel had set sail from Turkey several days ago with refugees from Afghanistan, Iran and several other countries.
It crashed into rocks on Sunday in stormy weather near the seaside resort of Steccato di Cutro. Eighty people survived, with 20 hospitalised including one in intensive care. One survivor was arrested, customs police said. The death toll was expected to rise.
The tragedy comes just days after Italy’s fascist-led government pushed a new law on rescuing refugees through parliament. It forces vessels to make just one rescue attempt at a time, which risks increasing the number of drownings in the Mediterranean. But that is its intention.
Fascist prime minister Giorgia Meloni proclaimed her “deep sorrow” at the tragedy. But she moved on quickly to blaming human traffickers for the incident, and pledged more of the policies responsible for the bloodbath on Europe’s borders.
“The government is committed to preventing departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so,” she said.
The Italian government gloated last week that deals with Libya and Tunisia, had already “averted the arrival” of close to 21,000 people. That forces more people to search out even more dangerous routes to Europe.The same message is repeated in Britain and across the European Union (EU).
Here the hate coming from the Tories has spawned an anti-refugee movement, with fascists in its ranks. There were racist protests—and counter‑demonstrations—outside a number of refugee hotels last weekend.
The response of the president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen to the tragedy in Italy was typical. She said, “We must redouble our efforts on the Pact on Migration and Asylum and on the Action Plan on the Central Mediterranean.”
That plan is an “integrated package of mobile and stationary infrastructure from vehicles to cameras, from watchtowers to electronic surveillance” to stop migrants getting into Europe and speed up mass deportations.
Last Friday, 15 EU states issued a statement calling for more cash to kill migrants. They asked for support for “all types of border protection infrastructure including physical barriers.”
The signatories added, “the support of Frontex”—the EU’s border force—“should also be increased and fully deployed in the most affected member states.” They also demanded “more possibilities” for accelerated deportation procedures “followed by rejections in case of unfounded asylum applications.”
The International Organisation for Migration recorded some 2,406 people as dead or missing in the Mediterranean in 2022. The real figure is undoubtedly higher. But that only spurs on the right.
Italian interior minister Matteo Piantedosi came to prominence as part of a previous clampdown on migrants. He visited the scene of the disaster saying the incident “shows the absolute need to act firmly against irregular migration channels.”
Italy’s parliament passed a new law last week that says that following a rescue, ships carrying migrants must request access to a port and sail to it “without delay”. Previously, vessels operated by charities spent several days in the Mediterranean and completed multiple rescues before heading to a port. Captains breaching the regulations now risk fines of up to 50,000 euros and their vessels being impounded.
On the same day as the vote, Italian authorities detained and fined a rescue ship operated by Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). MSF was accused of withholding some information about a rescue it completed last week, when the Geo Barents vessel took 48 migrants and refugees to the Adriatic port of Ancona.
Authorities placed the rescue ship in administrative detention for 20 days and issued a 10,000 euro fine. Other ships report being sent to ports far away from where the migrants are arriving so delaying their rescue operations.
The racist hatred directed towards migrants has spread from the top of society and it is growing across Europe. That’s another reason why Stand Up to Racism’s protests in Cardiff, Glasgow and London on Saturday 18 March—United Nations anti‑racism day—are so important.
For 18 March protest details go to facebook.com/StandUTR