According to the coast guard, the more than 1,300 refugees who were brought ashore in various Italian ports on Saturday were rescued by three completely overcrowded boats. Coast Guard videos showed a large fishing boat with dozens of people on deck being tossed in rough seas. Other images showed rescue rafts approaching another fishing boat full of people.
In Steccato di Cutro near the site of the boat accident off the Calabrian coast, thousands of people marched on Saturday behind a cross made of wreckage from the refugee boat that sank almost two weeks ago to the beach where the boat had crashed. "This cross is a symbol of suffering," former mayor and refugee activist Domenico Lucano told the Ansa news agency. The refugee accidents moved the residents of the region, "and there is a spirit of solidarity that the government does not show".
According to Italian media reports, the bodies of three other victims of the boat accident were recovered on Saturday. Accordingly, it was the mortal remains of two children of primary school age and a man. The death toll rose to at least 76.
The February 26 tragedy drew sharp criticism from the right-wing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni. She is accused of not intervening in time to save people from their sinking boat in heavy seas. After a cabinet meeting in Cutro on Thursday, Meloni announced longer prison sentences for people smugglers, but no new measures to save refugee lives.
Meloni's far-right government, which has been in office since October, announced during the election campaign that it would stop boats carrying migrants. According to the Italian Ministry of the Interior, almost 17,600 refugees have come to Italy since the beginning of the year, almost three times as many as in the same period last year.
According to the Turkish coast guard, five refugees who apparently wanted to cross to Greece in a rubber dinghy in rough seas drowned on Saturday off the south-west coast of Turkey. Eleven occupants of the boat were therefore rescued. According to the Greek Coast Guard, five other survivors reached the Greek island of Farmakonisi, ten kilometers from the Turkish coast, on their own. A total of 31 people are said to have been on board the dinghy.