….Italy approves punitive fines for migrant rescue boats entering ports without an OK***
The bodies of two children, four women and a man, suspected to be Africans were Tuesday morning recovered off the port of Mytilene, while 57 others were rescued, after a boat carrying migrants overturned near the Greek island of Lesbos.
While officials declined information in respect of their nationalities, local media say they are of African descent, even as Search and Rescue (SAR) teams continue the combing of the area for more victims of the sunken boat, some in a helicopter and boats, to rescue more victims travelling to Lesbos from Turkey.
On Tuesday, the Greek Coast Guard, accompanied by a European Union patrol boat, said it rescued dozens of people from the Aegean sea after their vessel sank at about 07:00 local time (04:00 GMT).
Already, survivors are being questioned about the number of passengers on board, the Greek newspaper, Ekathimerini reports.
The EU reached a deal with Turkey in 2016 that saw a decrease in the number of people crossing to Greece.
Under the deal, anyone who arrives on Greek islands must be returned to Turkey unless they qualify for asylum.
In recent months, the campaign group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported allegations of violence at the Greece-Turkey land border as refugees and migrants are “pushed back” into Turkey by the Greek authorities.
On Sunday, the UN refugee agency UNHCR warned that a lack of rescue ships and lifeboats coupled with an increase in migrant vessels leaving Libya also raises the risk of a dramatic rise in fatalities in the Mediterranean Sea.
“If we do not intervene soon, there will be a sea of blood,” spokeswoman Carlotta Sami said in a statement published in the UK’s Guardian newspaper.
Almost 22,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in the EU by sea since the beginning of the year, according to the most recent UNHCR figures.
They often make the journey in poorly maintained and overcrowded vessels, travelling in treacherous conditions from Libya, Egypt, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Turkey.
Libya, which has been torn by violence and political instability since long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi was deposed and killed in 2011, is a key departure point.
In May, dozens migrants died after their boat capsized in the Mediterranean off the coast of Tunisia. Survivors said the boat ran into trouble in high waves.
Meanwhile, the certainty of fatalities soaring got more real following a recent approval by Italy’s populist government of stiff fines for migrant rescue boats, that defy orders to stay out of Italian waters.
Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said Tuesday after a Cabinet meeting that a new decree allows fines of up to 50,000 euros ($57,000) when charity boats carrying migrants who were rescued at sea enter Italy’s ports without authorization.
The regulation also permits undercover police investigations of possible migrant trafficking operations and facilitates electronic eavesdropping on suspected people smugglers.
Since becoming interior minister a year ago, the right-wing Salvini has further toughened Italy’s oversight of rescue boats operated by private aid groups.
The number of smuggler vessels embarking from Libya and the corresponding number of migrant arrivals have dwindled.
Additional reports from BBC and ABC