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Thirteen women dead, 8 children missing after overcrowded migrant boat sinks near Italy

The Italian coast guard recovered the bodies of 13 female migrants from an overturned boat near the Italian island of Lampedusa on 6 October. Many of those on board the boat are still missing, including eight children. Italian authorities believe that more than 50 people were on the boat which had set off from Libya before making a stop in Tunisia to pick up more migrants.

Only 22 of those onboard survived the sinking which occurred after the passengers rushed to one side of the boat as authorities approached. Only four of the 13 recovered bodies have been identified by surviving family members, including that of a 12-year-old girl.

“The boat was in no condition to make the crossing,” said Italian prosecutor Salvatore Vella. In addition, none of the passengers had lifejackets. 

Vella also said that most of the passengers came from Tunisia or Sub-Saharan Africa. 

Coastguard and police vessels spotted the migrant boat just after midnight, several hours after having received a call for help, a few kilometers from the coast of Lampedusa. The island of Lampedusa sits below Sicily and is a magnet for migrants seeking a new life in Europe.

The route from Tunisia to Italy, though shorter than from Libya, is riskier as the sea is rougher. According to Sicilian prosecutors investigating this shipwreck case, the route from Tunisia has recently become increasingly popular among refugees and migrants attempting to reach Europe, despite the risks. 

“The goal for those departing from Tunisia is to reach the Sicilian coast directly and evade controls,” said Vella. 

This latest incident has brought the number of Mediterranean migrant deaths to more than 1,000 this year, renewing demands for measures to prevent future tragedies. Spokesman to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), Charlie Yaxley, called for the EU to resume its search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean Sea.

TMP 14/10/2019

Photo credit: Nasib Demlite/ Shutterstock.com

Photo caption: At least 13 women have died and eight children went missing when a migrant boat capsized near the island of Lampedusa.