At least 59 people, including women and children, drowned after the boat carrying them broke off near the southern coast of Italy early on Sunday morning.
According to reports, the vessel which had set sail from Turkey several days ago, was carrying 150 people from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, and Somalia when it encountered rough waters near the coastal town of Crotone in Calabria, Italy.
Manuela Curra, a regional government official told Reuters that the vessel had departed Izmir, in eastern Turkey, three or four days ago.
Local officials have said 80 people have been rescued, “including people who had managed to reach the shore after the sinking.”
Firefighters in Calabria are still searching for survivors at seas, but the weather conditions have made it difficult.
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One survivor has been arrested on people trafficking charges, Italian police said.
Italy’s right-wing Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, who was elected on the promise to tackle the flow of immigrants and refugees to Italy, said:
“It is inhumane to exchange the lives of men, women and children for the price of the ‘ticket’ they paid in the false perspective of a safe journey.
“The government is committed to preventing departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so.”
Pope Francis said he was praying for the victims and the European Commission President, Ursula van der Leyen, said she was “deeply saddened”.