According to reports, 28 people were rescued in the incident, which happened just off Libyan waters, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, Antonino Irato, a senior official from the Italian border police, told television station RaiNews24. He said 24 bodies had been recovered. If confirmed, the death toll would bring the total number of dead since the beginning of the year to more than 1,500.
The new deaths fuelled calls for a stronger response from Europe to the increasingly deadly migrant crisis playing out in the Mediterranean. International aid groups and Italian authorities have criticised Europe’s so-called “Triton” border protection operation, which recently replaced a more comprehensive Italian search-and-rescue mission. “A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean, and if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides when the comfortable did nothing,” Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said.
Italian officials said navy and coast guard vessels, as well as merchant ships in the area and a Maltese patrol boat, were involved in the search and rescue operation, which was being coordinated by the Italian coast guard in Rome. “They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water,” he added.
There was still no decision on where the survivors and the bodies that had been recovered would be taken. The boat is believed to have capsized when the migrants shifted to one side of the overcrowded vessel as a merchant ship approached.]]>