The Italian government doesn’t care if refugees die (Picture: Wikimedia Commons)

The bodies keep on washing up on the Italian coast. On Tuesday the body of a child was found. It was at that point the latest corpse from the migrant boat named Summer Love, which smashed apart on rocks within sight of the village of Steccato di Cutro last month.

The crash killed at least 72, including 28 children, of the estimated 180 people aboard. Some 79 people survived and some 30 are still missing. It is a warning of where the legal posturing and racist rhetoric the British government are fond of leads.

The European Union’s (EU) border and coast guard agency said that the boat might be crowded, according to thermal signs it shared with the Italian authorities.

Italy did not consider EU border force Frontex’s communication about a boat which later sank as an “emergency”. That’s according to Italy’s fascist prime minister Giorgia Meloni.

The sighting took place on the night of 25 February. It was hours before the boat sank in the early morning of 26 February close to the Calabrian coast in southern Italy, near the city of Crotone. The EU agency warned that the vessel had large numbers of people on it, and waves around it at nearly three metres high.

Italy mobilised two boats of Guardia di Finanza (GDF), initiating a so-called “law enforcement” operation. The GDF or Financial Police is a militarised force that deals with smuggling and tax dodging. It is neither likely nor equipped to proceed with a rescue. As it happens, the conditions were so bad that the police dinghies were forced to turn back before even getting to the migrant boat.

The GDF and Italian coast guard made no mention of the thermal signs in their statements after the tragedy. Larger coast guard boats, better suited to search and rescue operations, were not called out.

The Italian coast guard declared on Tuesday that the vessel “appeared to be sailing regularly, at 6 knots”. It said there were “good buoyancy conditions, with only one person visible on the deck of the ship”.

The EU has passed the buck saying “according to the international law” rescue “is a responsibility of national authorities”. And indeed European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has praised Italy’s response in a letter this week to Meloni.

It said that “the work done by Italy and others to offer safe and legal pathways to vulnerable people through humanitarian corridors makes a vital contribution.” Which is as obtuse a response as we can expect for a body determined to keep migrants out of Europe.

Relatives of the dead staged a protest in front of a sports hall in the nearby town of Crotone. It’s where the bodies are being kept, after local officials said the coffins were being sent for burial to a cemetery in the northern city of Bologna. That is the other end of the country.

The Italian government has denied accusations it delayed any rescue. Meloni said Italy’s coastal services had “operated in a correct fashion”.

“Is there anyone in this country who really believes that the government deliberately let more than 60 people die, including children?” Meloni said. Socialist Worker thinks exactly that.

The Italian government last month passed new rules on sea rescues. It was the latest in a long string of measures over the past seven years to try to scapegoat migrants.

Lawyer Fulvio Vassallo Paleologo said the cumulative effect of these was to limit rescues in international waters. The coastguard had to coordinate with the interior ministry, slowing its response time. At the same time the NGO boasts, which had filled the gaps, are now being harassed through the courts and sent to faraway ports.

When visiting the scene of the shipwreck, interior minister Matteo Piantedosi said, “Desperation can never justify travel conditions that endanger the lives of one’s children. Claiming that the government conditioned or prevented a rescue is a grievous falsehood.”

And so the fascist-led government is to announce a further clampdown, with a familiar rhetoric about stopping “irregular migration”. Meloni was set to hold a cabinet meeting on Thursday and is expected to approve a bill that she claims will clamp down on human traffickers.

The beaches of Italy show the cost of that approach every day.

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