Italy: Migrants pay 8,000 euros for death trip

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Rescuers recovered a body from the sea on Tuesday, bringing the death toll to 64 in the latest migration tragedy to Italy, as prosecutors identified suspects who allegedly charged 8,000 euros ($8,500) each for the "death voyage" from Turkey.

In a letter to European leaders, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni called for swift measures to respond to the migration crisis, stressing that the only serious and humanitarian solution was to prevent migrants from risking their lives on dangerous sea voyages.

"The fact is that the more people travel, the more people are at risk of dying," he told RAI state television on Monday.

At least 64 people, including eight children, were killed early Sunday morning when their wooden boat crashed into sandbanks just hundreds of meters off the Calabrian coast and broke apart in rough seas. Eighty people survived, but more are feared dead as, according to survivors, the boat left Izmir, Turkey, with some 170 people on board.

Humanitarian groups on the ground have said that many passengers, including entire families, came from Afghanistan, as well as Pakistan, Syria and Iraq. Rescuers recovered one body in the sea on Tuesday, bringing the number to 64, said Andrea Mortato of the firefighters' diving unit.

Crotona prosecutor Giuseppe Capoccia confirmed that investigators identified three suspected traffickers, one Turk and two Pakistanis. Another Turk is believed to have escaped or died in the wreck.

Customs police said in a statement that the organizers charged 8,000 euros from each traveler on the "voyage of death."

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi has responded strongly to suggestions that the rescue was delayed or affected by government policy that discourages humanitarian groups from going out to sea to rescue migrants.

The EU border agency, Frontex, said a plane of its own sighted the boat off Crotone on Saturday night and alerted Italian authorities. Italy sent two patrol boats, which had to return due to bad weather. The rescue operation began on Sunday morning, when the boat had broken up.

“There was no delay,” Piantedosi said. "Everything possible was done in absolutely prohibitive conditions at sea."

Meloni's right-wing government, which won elections last year in part on promises to crack down on migration, has focused on hampering the efforts of humanitarian ships to carry out multiple rescues in the central Mediterranean by assigning them landing ports in the north of the country. That means ships need more time to return to sea after picking up migrants and dropping them off.

Piantedosi told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that relief groups do not usually operate in the area of ​​Sunday's shipwreck, which occurred in the Ionian Sea off the coast of Calabria. The groups tend to operate in the central Mediterranean, where they rescue migrants from Libya or Tunisia.

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