Around a dozen people, reportedly including eight children and other pregnant women, are still missing after the small, overloaded boat capsized off the coast of the southern Italian island, the coastguard said.
The coastguard and a customs vessel on Monday saved 22 of the people who fell in the water as the rescue ships approached around six nautical miles from Lampedusa.
They had rushed to the aid of an “overloaded and already listing boat” shortly after midnight on Monday, a statement said. As the rescue vessels approached, “the adverse weather conditions and the sudden displacement of the migrants” caused the boat to capsize, it said.
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Italian media reported that the boat had left Tunisia with Tunisians and sub-Saharan Africans on board.
“People can't die like this,” said Lampedusa's mayor Toto Martello. “We must identify the smuggling networks and encourage actions to make the Mediterranean safer,” he said of Monday's disaster, the latest in a series in the central Mediterranean.
Italy on Thursday marked the sixth anniversary of the sinking off Lampedusa of a boat carrying around 500 African migrants on October 3rd, 2013.
A total of 366 people died in that disaster.
Coffins for victims of shipwrecks off Sicily in October 2013. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
It plunged Italy into mourning and prompted the vast naval rescue exercise Mare Nostrum, before further sinkings led the European Union and charities to send their own rescue vessels.
The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that at least 19,000 migrants have drowned or gone missing while making the perilous Mediterranean crossing from North Africa to Europe since 2016.
Since the start of 2019, 1,041 migrants have died at sea, the IOM said.