The refugee boat had set sail off the Tunisian coast, Italian authorities confirmed on Monday evening. It encountered difficulties near Lampedusa and eventually sank in heavy seas. Eight refugees are still missing, including two children. 42 boat refugees were rescued by the coast guard and brought to the island’s port. Two other prisoners were rescued alive from the sea by fishermen.
Some of the shipwrecked men were able to reach safety on the rocks, others swam to the island. Lampedusa officials said the rescued people were from Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Guinea-Bissau and Mali.
According to eyewitnesses, the girl was on the boat with her mother. Following the accident, the woman managed to save her child despite high waves until emergency services arrived. Apparently the child – only one year and eight months old – is among eight refugees, including two children, still missing. However, he had already swallowed too much seawater and was severely hypothermic. It died before it could be brought to port.
The island of Lampedusa is one of the centers of irregular migration in Europe because of its close proximity to Africa. Despite the short distance, crossing in seaworthy boats is often extremely dangerous. In total, about 150,000 people without regular papers have arrived in Italy illegally by sea since January. Many boats start from the Tunisian port city of Sfax. Like the ship on which the little girl was.