A total of 51 Kurdish migrants have been rescued off the Crotone coast, in the Italian southern region of Calabria, where their sailboat had run aground. The migrants' screams woke up some of the residents of the area, who took action to save them.
The boat on which the migrants were travelling - including six women, three children and an infant - ran aground a few meters from the coast near a hotel after having been abandoned by the traffickers. The boat then capsized on the coast near Torre di Melissa, in the Crotone area in southeastern Italy.
The migrants' desperate screams awakened some of the area residents, who ran to rescue them. Torre di Melissa mayor Gino Murgi also took part. "I saw my fellow citizens take off their coats to give them to wet, freezing people," he said. "Everyone here did what they could. I am proud of how the rescue and reception system worked here, with a great deal of diligence and professionalism."
A baby only a few months old and his mother were trapped in the boat but were saved by the financial police.
This was the first migrant boat from the Balkans to land in Italy in 2019. The route from the Balkans to Italy via sea continues to be used by traffickers. They mostly use small sailboats to avoid detection. Migrants that use this route hail mainly from Turkey, the Middle East and South-East Asia.
Despite the efforts by locals, one of the passengers is still missing. The police has identified the alleged traffickers: two Russian citizens aged 43 and 25.
Once rescued, the migrants and refugees were transferred to the Sant'Anna di Isola Capo Rizzuto reception center. The migrants will now begin the asylum request procedure. The Sant'Anna center is only half occupied - 600 people live in the center, which has room for 1,200, which means that the 51 rescued Kurds are likely to remain in this center instead of being transferred elsewhere.
Migrant landings have been a controversial issue in Italy over the past few years. The current government has repeatedly refused to let NGO migrant rescue ships dock and Interior Minister Matteo Salvini has declared Italian ports closed to NGO ships. Salvini's migration policy has been met with much criticism from the opposition and several prominent mayors across the country.