ROME (AP) — Italian military vessels searching Monday for an infant missing from a migrant boat that capsized last week instead found four decomposed adult bodies apparently from a previous shipwreck.
The Italian daily La Sicilia online news said the bodies of two women and two men were discovered by Coast Guard and Border Police boats in the waters off the coast of Lampedusa, an Italian tourist island south of Sicily.
The search was being carried out after a migrants’ boat capsized Saturday near the uninhabited islet of Lampione, which is near Lampedusa. A couple among the 39 rescued migrants told authorities that their two-week-old daughter was missing.
Humanitarian organizations say it’s not possible to know the exact number of migrants who perish on the dangerous journey aboard human smugglers’ boats in their quest to reach southern Europe.
Often, authorities only learn of missing migrants when survivors of foundering boats recount that some fellow passengers are unaccounted for, or family members in home countries who hear of a shipwreck contact officials in hopes of news.
Italian authorities do try to identify bodies of migrants found at sea, but the process is a long one.
For more than a decade, Europe-bound migrants have crossed or attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea in crowded, smugglers’ boats, most often launched from Libya or Tunisia. Many of these boats sink, overturn or run out of fuel.
Most of the rescued migrants see their asylum bids fail because they are fleeing poverty, not war or persecution.
Italy’s new premier, far-right leader Giorgia Meloni, has advocated a naval blockade of the southern Mediterranean to discourage people smugglers.
Follow AP’s coverage of global migration at https://apnews.com/hub/migration