A senior Italian Government minister has sparked a furious backlash and calls to resign after claiming migrants whose children died in a tragic accident at the weekend had themselves to blame. At least 65 people, including 14 children, died when their overcrowded wooden boat crashed into shoals 100 meters off the coast of Cutro in southern Italy and broke apart in rough seas. Eighty people survived the tragic accident, but more are feared to have died as survivors have since indicated the boat had carried about 170 people when it left Izmir in Turkey last week.
Aid groups have said many of the boat’s passengers were from Afghanistan, including entire families, as well as from Pakistan, Syria and Iraq.
But Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has sparked outrage in the days following the tragedy after criticising parents who boarded the boat from Turkey with their families.
He said: “Desperation can never justify travelling in conditions that endanger the lives of their children.”
Mr Piantedosi’s comments have triggered widespread fury, with Alessandra Maiorino, a senator with the opposition Five Star party, demanding he resign, adding his views reflected “inhumane cynicism”.
Simona Malpezzi, a senator with centre-left Democratic Party, said: “I am speechless. The Meloni government has reached the point of placing a value on people’s desperation.”
Many other senior politicians furious with the Interior Minister’s comments have claimed Afghans on the doomed boat were justified in fleeing the Taliban and deserved asylum in Europe
Raffaella Paita, a senator with the centrist Italia Viva party, said: “If a mother chooses to put her child, the most precious thing she has, on a boat, it is because she is fleeing from greater danger and desperation.”
Mr Piantedosi has led the crackdown from Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on charities that rescue migrants in the Mediterranean, with a plan in place to significantly cut the number of migrants coming into Italy after 105,000 landed last year alone.
In response to the criticism directed at him, the Interior Minister told the Italian parliament more humanitarian corridors should be opened to allow migrants to enter Italy legally and safely.
Premier Ms Meloni has written to European leaders demanding quick action on the continent’s longstanding migration problem, adding migrants must be stopped from risking their lives on dangerous sea crossings.
She told RAI state television: “The point is, the more people who set off, the more people risk dying.”
On Tuesday, rescue teams pulled more bodies from the scene of the tragic accident, bringing the death toll to 65.
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Prosecutors have also identified suspected smugglers who allegedly charged €8,000 (£7,000) for each person making the “voyage of death” from Turkey to Italy.
Italian authorities delayed a scheduled viewing of the coffins to allow more time for identification of the bodies pulled from the sea, as desperate friends and family rush to the Calabrian city of Crotone in hope of finding their loved ones.
Aladdin Mohibzada, who drove 25 hours from Germany to reach the makeshift morgue set up at a sports stadium, said: “I am looking for my aunt and her three children.”
But he feels frustrated by what he claimed was a lack of information as authorities scrambled to cope with the disaster, adding: “We are helpless here. We don’t know what we should do.”
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