A 2-year-old is dead and 8 people are missing after a migrant boat capsized off Italy’s Lampedusa

By Giada Zampano, The Associated Press

ROME (AP) — A small boat crammed with migrants capsized off the southern Italian island of Lampedusa on Monday evening, killing a 2-year-old girl and leaving at least eight people missing, rescuers said.

The Italian coast guard and fishermen who were in the area when the boat hit some rocks before capsizing saved 43 other people. Most of those rescued were from Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Guinea Bissau and Mali and had departed from Sfax, in Tunisia.

Survivors told rescuers that at least eight people who were aboard were missing, including two children.

Meanwhile, a fishing boat with 400 migrants onboard disembarked at the commercial port of Lampedusa, after being escorted by the local coast guard, bringing the total of the people landed in the island on Monday to 800 in 11 different arrivals.

Last week, over 1,200 rescued migrants had arrived on the tiny island in just 26 hours.

Lampedusa is a small stretch of land and the southernmost spot of Italy. Mass arrivals of migrants over the years have often brought its services to the brink of collapse. Formally, the local facility on the island has enough capacity for only 400 people.

The Central Mediterranean migration route to Europe is the busiest for people trying to enter the European Union, with more than 143,000 attempted entries in the first nine months of 2023, according to the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, or Frontex.

In September, the Italian government approved new measures to crack down on migration, after Lampedusa was again overwhelmed by a wave of arrivals setting off from Tunisia and the migration issue returned to center stage in Europe with talk of a naval blockade.

The measures approved by Italy’s right-wing government led by Giorgia Meloni focused on migrants who don’t qualify for asylum and are slated to be repatriated to their home countries. The government extended the amount of time such people can be detained to the EU maximum of 18 months. It also plans to increase the number of detention centers to hold them, since capacity has always been insufficient and many of those scheduled to be returned home manage to head farther north.

Giada Zampano, The Associated Press

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