Italian media say Border Police are being investigated into the shipwreck that killed 94 migrants

ROME (AP) — Three members of Italy’s border police are being investigated for an alleged role in a shipwreck off the country’s southern coast this year that killed more than 90 migrants, the authorities reported on Friday. Italian media.

Citing a search warrant issued by prosecutors, the Corriere della Sera newspaper said investigators cited ‘significant anomalies’ in the activity log of an Italian Border Police motorboat used in an abandoned search of the overcrowded migrant ship.

A surveillance plane operated by the European Union border and coast guard agency Frontex first spotted the old wooden boat in the Ionian Sea on the night of February 25. The agency told Italian authorities that no life jackets were visible but that the boat, which human smugglers had launched in Turkey, showed no signs of distress.

Italy’s Guardia di Finanza, or financial police, which also has a role at borders and customs, dispatched two patrols to “intercept the vessel”. Shortly after the search was canceled due to bad weather, the migrant ship broke apart after hitting a sandbar in Calabria, the “foot” of the Italian peninsula.

Some 80 people survived. The known death toll has been put at 94 after bodies were found in the sea or washed up on beaches, some of them weeks later. An unknown number of migrants are said to be missing.

Further citing the seven-page search warrant request, Corriere della Sera said prosecutors noted that some of the diary entries were not written when patrol officers conducted a search, but hours later. At that time, the sinking, with its deadly consequences, was front-page news.

According to Italian media, the three members of the Border Police are being investigated on suspicion of manslaughter, wrongdoing related to official documentation and causing a shipwreck. It was not immediately clear if they had participated in the search or if they were at the port issuing orders.

Along with members of the border police, three other people are under investigation, Sky news channel TG24 and other Italian media reported. The Corriere della Sera said the search warrant order erased the names of the other three.

Friday was a public holiday in Italy and prosecutors’ offices were closed.

Two border police boats carried out an initial search for the ship full of migrants. But they quickly returned to port before dawn on February 26, due to unfavorable sea conditions, authorities said at the time.

Calabria prosecutors, investigating the three members of the border police, argued that one of the patrol boats, a motorboat identified as V5006, was in fact at the port of Crotone, Calabria, sometimes the newspaper indicated that he was at sea looking for the migrant ship, says Corriere della Sera.

An Italian coastguard vessel, better equipped and built to search for boats in distress in choppy waters, eventually left, but just then emergency calls started coming in. By the time the coastguard arrived on the scene, the migrant boat had already sunk, bodies were in the sea and dozens of survivors were desperately trying to swim to shore.

The Italian investigation also led to the arrest of four men suspected of being the smugglers and who were among the survivors. The last of the four was taken into custody after traveling to Austria, which handed him over to Italian authorities in late April.


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