Italy: 5-month-old baby drowned in operation to rescue migrants

A five-month-old boy drowned during a migrant rescue operation

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A five-month-old baby boy drowned during a rescue operation off Lampedusa as Italy's southernmost island struggles to cope with an unprecedented number of migrants arriving by sea from north Africa.

The infant fell into the water yesterday evening, Tuesday, while the coast guard was trying to bring 46 migrants ashore from a boat, with the scenes unfolding chaotically, according to the ANSA agency. Other people also fell into the water but managed to survive, while help came too late for the child.

The baby was from a Guinean family and the mother was a minor, according to authorities. The girl, who is receiving psychological support, was on a boat from the Tunisian city of Sfax, about 190 miles (XNUMX km) from Lampedusa, the closest point some migrants seeking to escape war and poverty can try to reach. to enter Europe.

Yesterday, images broadcast from the region showed queues of boats, all full of migrants, waiting to dock at the port of Lampedusa as the daily arrival tally reached a new record high.

Prosecutor Giovanni Di Leo said 112 boats arrived yesterday, carrying more than 5.000 migrants, far surpassing the previous record of 63 boats registered in one day last month. Meanwhile, migrant arrivals continued, with around 1.300 new arrivals this morning.

Di Leo compared the emergency on the small island to what Italy experienced in 1991, when a single ship transported around 20.000 Albanians to Bari in southern Albania.

"We are all tired and exhausted physically and psychologically, the situation is becoming unmanageable and unsustainable," Lampedusa mayor Filippo Mannino told the Adnkronos news agency today.

Migrants arriving in Lampedusa are regularly transferred to Sicily to avoid congestion, but when arrivals increase, this cannot be done quickly enough.

The island's reception center had more than 6.000 people today, according to the Italian Red Cross, when the official capacity is around 400.

In total, around 118.500 boatloads of migrants have arrived in Italy since the start of the year, according to interior ministry figures updated this morning.

The figure is almost double what was recorded during the same period in 2022.

Source: RES-EAP