At least four people have been confirmed dead, up to three are reported missing and seven migrants were rescued after their boat ran into trouble between Algeria and the Italian island of Sardinia on Sunday, authorities said.
The boat was reportedly carrying at least 13 migrants. Reports suggest between two and three people are still missing and four bodies have been found so far, reported the Italian news agency ANSA on Monday (November 21).
Seven survivors were taken to a reception center on the island of Sardinia and will undergo a medical check up and be offered any medical help they might need, the Italian coast guard said Monday.
Searches continued late on Sunday
Italy’s national broadcaster RAI reported that of those rescued, six were male and one was female. They were initially taken on to a merchant ship, Christina B. According to a statement from the Italian authorities, the migrants had jumped into the water when the Christina B neared their boat. Six men and one woman managed to reach the Christina B, but four people were pulled out of the water dead.
The incident reportedly took place in the Algerian zone, but the Algerian authorities then requested help from the Italian coast guard, according to RAI. Rome’s search and rescue coordinators then took charge of the operation and sent nearby naval and air support to help search for the migrants.
Italy coordinates rescue attempts
Italy’s national daily newspaper La Repubblica explained that although the boat got into trouble in the Algerian SAR, it was just 15 nautical miles from the Italian SAR and 107 miles from the Algerian coast, which is why the Italian authorities were asked for help.
According La Repubblica, the Italian coast guard also helped rescue around 500 people on Sunday morning after a boat was identified about 70 nautical miles from the Sicilian coast, heading for the port of Pozzallo. The migrants were on board a former fishing boat, "one of many that the Libyan traffickers are now using to transport migrants towards Italy," reported La Repubblica. The boat was at risk trying to navigate during a "violent storm".
The weather conditions reportedly made both the rescue and the searches more difficult, but the Italian and Algerian authorities worked together with helicopters and search planes to try and recover those reported missing.
Other migrants arrive in Sicily on Sunday
The rescue was just the latest in a long line of rescues that the Italian authorities have been carrying out in the last few weeks, reported La Repubblica. More and more, authorities are finding several hundred people loaded on board former fishing boats which manage to make it into the Italian SAR zones and then run into trouble.
The majority of the migrants arriving on these boats were from Syria and Egypt. They have been sent to first reception centers in the ports of Catania, Messina and Augusta in Sicily.
According to the latest figures from the Italian interior ministry, last updated on November 18, more than 93,639 people have made it to the Italian coasts after crossing the sea, or being rescued part way across.
The majority of arrivals are Egyptian nationals this year (19,113), with Tunisians accounting for 17,295 of arrivals so far and Bangladeshis for 13,049.
Italy’s new right-wing government has suggested that reception centers should be set up in North Africa where migrants could then apply for asylum to Europe. They have also called upon other European nations to shoulder more of the burden of arrivals but so far neither plan has been effectively enacted.
With ANSA, Reuters