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Meloni, Tajani meet migrant shipwreck survivors, victims' families

16 marzo 2023 | 15.07
LETTURA: 2 minuti

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Italy's premier Giorgia Meloni and foreign minister Antonio Tajani held "emotional" private talks in Rome on Thursday with survivors and relatives of victims of a migrant shipwreck in which at least 86 people died - many of them from Afghanistan.

Cabinet undersecretary Alfredo Mantovano and translators also attended Thursday's talks at Palazzo Chigi in Rome, Meloni's office said in a statement.

"The meeting took place in an emotional and moving atmosphere," the statement underlined.

During the talks, survivors and relatives of victims of the shipwreck off Calabria last month thanked Meloni for meeting them and for the government's help to date, including its actions in Afghanistan, according to the statement.

Italy airlifted some 5,000 Afghan refugees from Afghanistan after the Taliban takeover in August 2021 - more than any other EU country.

Meloni "expressed her personal condolences and those of the whole government" for the tragedy and pledged its "maximum commitment" to keep searching for the bodies of migrants who are still missing after the 26 February shipwreck close to the town of Cutro - as requested by the group.

Meloni said the bodies of at least some of the missing migrants are thought to be lodged in the wreckage of the wooden boat, which broke up and sank to the seabed after crashing into rocks.

Meloni vowed that Italy's diplomats at the European Union would work to meet the group's request to help survivors from the shipwreck reunite with family in Germany and other European countries, the statement said.

Meloni also pledged that Italy would work for "a free Afghanistan that respects human rights, especially those of women, and to overcome the various crises that have hit Pakistan, the Palestinian territories and Syria," the statement said.

Meloni asked the group how aware they were of the risks associated with trying to cross the Mediterranean and reaffirmed the government's determination to fight human traffickers "in order to avoid further tragedies", said the statement.

"Thank you for being here and for the clarity with which you have conveyed your personal dramas and your requests," Meloni concluded.

Meloni's rightwing government denies that Italy's authorities did not do enough to try and save people aboard the boat on the night of the shipwreck off Cutro.

The Meloni government claims people smugglers who arranged the migrants' journeys are solely to blame for the tragedy.

Despite "cruel" accusations levelled against her administration, "our conscience is clear," Meloni told lawmakers at parliamentary question time on Wednesday.

After a cabinet meeting held in Cutro on 9 March, Meloni said the government had approved a decree establishing a new crime - people smuggling that results in the death of migrants - punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

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