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Dozens of bodies have been recovered from a migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean


Nearly 60 bodies have been recovered from a migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean. Many more are feared dead. As NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, 80 survived when their rickety vessel sank off the Italian coast.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: The front pages of Italian papers today carried large photos of lines of bodies covered in white sheets along a windswept beach in the southern region of Calabria. Many of the dead are children. TV showed images of slivers of wood floating on the waves, and wreckage of the vessel was spread along many miles of shoreline. The migrant boat ran into rough waters at dawn Sunday and broke apart after crashing along a reef just 150 yards from the coast. The migrants came mostly from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Humanitarian groups are offering psychological assistance to survivors, many of whom made it to the beach on their own. They said the vessel had left the Turkish port of Izmir on Thursday. The humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders said there were probably a total of 177 on board, meaning many migrants are still missing. Italian state TV reported two suspected traffickers - one Turkish, one Pakistani - have been taken into custody.

This is the first major shipwreck since Italy's radical right government took office in October. Under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, the government has cracked down on humanitarian ships, imposing tough restrictions with violators facing stiff fines and confiscation of rescue vessels. It's a law the United Nations says imperils lives. Italian President Sergio Mattarella called on the European Union to finally take responsibility with a common migration and asylum policy that shares the burden of a phenomenon that he said cannot be resolved by one country alone.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News, Rome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.