At least 13 people have died and another 15 are missing after a vessel with migrants and refugees sank off the coast of the Italian island of Lampedusa, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The victims were all women, some of them pregnant, and according to witnesses, there are eight children and other pregnant women among the missing.
Twenty-two people were rescued and transported to the port of Lampedusa, off Sicily, according to reporting in the Guardian.
The Operations Center of the Coast Guard of Rome was alerted by the Single Response Center (CUR) of Palermo late on Sunday about a small boat with about 50 migrants that had had capsized near Lampedusa. An IOM spokesperson, Flavio Di Giacomo, explained on Twitter that the vessel had sailed from Tunisia.
“Once the boat was spotted and to continue with the transshipment operations, the naval units approached the small boat, but the adverse climatic conditions and the sudden displacement of the migrants caused the boat to overturn,” said the Coast Guard.
Di Giacomo has confirmed the recovery of 13 bodies, all of them from women from western Africa. “This tragedy demonstrates once again the need to strengthen the presence of rescue boats in the sea, especially now that the weather conditions are getting worse,” he said in the IOM spokesman.
Since the beginning of the year, 1,071 people have died in the Mediterranean, 688 of them on the Sicilian Canal route, according to IOM data.