Seven migrants die crossing to Italy in winter weather

Seven migrants die crossing to Italy in winter weather
2 min read
Reportedly from Bangladesh, they were making the perilous crossing from Libya in a boat carrying 280 people.
Winter weather was once a deterrent but despite freezing temperatures and rough seas, over 1,750 people have arrived in Italy so far this month [Getty]

Seven refugees have died while attempting to cross the Mediterranean in cold weather, the mayor of Italy's Lampedusa island told AFP on Tuesday.

Reportedly from Bangladesh, they were making the perilous crossing from Libya in a boat carrying 280 people.

"Three people died during the crossing, another four suffering severe hypothermia died after they were intercepted by the coastguard and were being transferred to the island," mayor Toto Martello said.

The Mediterranean Hope migration project said on Twitter that the 280 migrants came originally from Bangladesh, Egypt, Mali and Sudan, and "almost all of them were in a severe state of hypothermia".

"The shocking thing is there continues to be a deafening silence from the Italian government and Europe, even in the face of deaths," Martello said.

Winter weather was once a deterrent but despite freezing temperatures and rough seas, over 1,750 people have arrived in Italy so far this month, compared to 379 in the same period last year.

"This tragedy shows that, even in this winter period, there is an urgent need to increase the number of rescue ships at sea that can rescue migrants quickly, save their life and bring them to a safe port," said Flavio Di Giacomo of the UN's migration agency, the IOM.

After undergoing coronavirus tests, the survivors were split between the health centre and the heavily overcrowded reception centre on the tiny island of Lampedusa, which lies closer to Africa than Italy.

World
Live Story

The reception centre, which can hold 250 migrants, currently houses over 600 people.

Just over 100 were to be transferred on Tuesday to a quarantine ship moored off Cala Pisana, one of the island's tourist spots.

While some 34,000 migrants arrived in Italy in 2020, that figure almost doubled to 64,500 people in 2021.

"It's become a continuous phenomenon. There's no difference any more between summer and winter, when boats didn't use to arrive," Martello said.

"This year, if the start is anything to go by, we're going to double the number for 2021."

The Catholic charity Sant'Egidio, which has helped resettle refugees, called on the EU to "come out of its torpor" and save lives, including by opening up new legal migration routes.

"It is not acceptable to die of cold a few metres from Europe," it said in a statement.