At least 43 migrants have died after their boat sank off the coast of Italy’s southern Calabria region, authorities said on Sunday, Reuters reports.
Some 80 migrants have survived the shipwreck, according to the Italian coast guard, but authorities fear the death toll could climb as the boat was carrying some 200 people.
Most of the bodies were found washed up on the shores of Steccato di Cutro, a resort in the province of Crotone, while a few others were retrieved from the water, rescuers said.
The vessel, which had migrants from Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan, crashed against rocks in rough seas, according to Italian news reports.
The tragedy comes just days after the far-right government led by Premier Giorgia Meloni pushed through Parliament a controversial new law on rescuing migrants.
Meloni expressed her “deep sorrow for the many human lives cut short by human traffickers,” noting that “it is criminal to launch a boat just 20 meters long with as many as 200 people on board and with adverse weather forecasts.”
She stressed that the government “is committed to preventing the departures, and with them the unfolding of these tragedies, and will continue to do so, first of all by demanding maximum collaboration from the states of departure and of origin.”
Italy’s Interior Ministry Matteo Piantedosi said the latest tragedy “shows how it is absolutely necessary to fight firmly against irregular migration, handled by unscrupulous smugglers who, to get rich, organize these improvised trips, with inadequate boats and in prohibitive conditions.”
He called to move forward with any possible “initiative to block the departures and avoid encouraging the crossings.”
Meloni, leader of the anti-migrant Brothers of Italy party, won last September’s national elections promising to stop the flow of migrants reaching Italian shores.
The new law pushed by the Meloni government forces migrant aid vessels to make just one rescue attempt at a time, which critics say risks increasing the number of drownings in the central Mediterranean, the most dangerous crossing in the world for people seeking asylum in Europe.