People smugglers ‘threw children out’ of sinking migrant boat

, including children, were thrown into the sea from an overcrowded boat by people smugglers, survivors of a deadly shipwreck have said. At least 65 people, including 14 youngsters, died when their the wooden vessel slammed into shoals near the shore of Steccato di Cutro, .

The boat, which sailed from and carried people from countries including Afghanistan and Iran, broke apart and sank in rough seas early on Sunday.

About 80 survivors have now been accounted for of the 170 people who are reported to have attempted the perilous journey from Izmir last week. The smugglers are alleged to have charged around £7,000 (€8,000) each for the voyage.

Survivors have now claimed the traffickers started to throw migrants, some of whom they said were children, overboard in a bid to lighten the boat’s load.

One survivor told Italian newspaper La Stampa: “The traffickers started to throw kids out, they grabbed them by the arm and threw them in the sea.”

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Shaun Pinner from Bedfordshire was one of five British nationals released from Russian detention in Ukraine in September as part of a prisoner swap deal.

has written to European leaders demanding swift action on the continent’s longstanding migration problem.

She demanded that migrants must be stopped from risking their lives on dangerous sea crossings.

Ms Meloni told RAI state television on Monday: “The point is, the more people who set off, the more people risk dying.”

Italy’s right-wing government has complicated efforts by humanitarian vessels to make multiple rescues in the central Mediterranean by assigning them ports of disembarkation along Italy’s northern coasts.

The decision means the boats need more time to return to sea after bringing migrants aboard and taking them safely to shore.

Aid groups’ rescue ships don’t usually operate in the area of Sunday’s shipwreck off the Calabrian coast in the Ionian Sea.

They generally operate in the central Mediterranean, rescuing migrants who set off from Libya or Tunisia and not from Turkey in the eastern Mediterranean.

Interior Minister Matteo Piantedosi pushed back at suggestions the rescue was delayed or affected by government policy.

He told Corriere della Sera: “There was no delay. Everything possible was done in absolutely prohibitive sea conditions.”

Crotone prosecutor Giuseppe Capoccia confirmed investigators had identified three suspected smugglers, a Turk and two Pakistani nationals. A second Turk is believed to have escaped or died in the wreck.

The Italian Coast Guard issued a statement today saying Frontex had indicated the migrants’ boat was “navigating normally” and only one person could be seen above deck.

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