Frontex did not alert Italy to migrant emergency: Meloni
Rome, Mar 4 (EFE).- Italy’s prime minister Giorgia Meloni on Saturday said her government was not notified by the European Union’s coast guard agency of a maritime emergency before a boat carrying up to 180 migrants sank off the country’s south coast last week, killing at least 69 people.
Meloni, speaking to reporters during a visit to Abu Dhabi, said it was not possible to save the victims of the sinking.
“The situation is simple in its drama: Frontex did not send an emergency signal,” she said, adding that the route was not being covered by NGO rescue ships.
It was her first official declaration on the disaster, which occurred on Sunday, February 26, when a vessel that had traveled from Turkey with as many as 180 migrants on board, many from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan and Syria, sank just 150 meters from the coast of Cutro, in Calabria.
Among the 69 people confirmed to have died in the tragedy were at least 15 minors, although the final death toll could surpass 100, migrant organizations have warned.
Prosecutors have opened an investigation into the disaster, with one of the focuses being the reaction of officials in the hours before the sinking after Frontex said it alerted Italian authorities to the presence of the vessel on Saturday.
The diverging version of events offered by Frontex and Italy’s authorities has cast doubt on whether the tragedy could have been averted.
Elly Schlein, the new leader of the opposition Democratic Party, has called on the interior minister, Matteo Piantedosi — a close ally of the far-right Mattero Salvini — to resign.
Meloni, who has come under criticism for deciding not to visit the site of the tragedy to pay tribute to the victims, brushed the calls aside.
She said the government was considering holding its next cabinet meeting in Cutro, the town nearest to the site of the sinking.
The prime minister also insisted that the tragedy had nothing to do with her government’s tough policy towards NGO migrant rescue vessels in the region. EFE