Three Italian border police officers are being investigated on suspicion of manslaughter after dozens of migrants downed off the coast of Calabria.
In February, at least 94 people – including a newborn and other children – died after a wooden boat carrying up to 180 people broke apart against jagged rocks.
The remains of the boat washed up on the beach of Steccato di Cutro, a small seaside town on Calabria’s eastern coast that forms the tip of Italy’s boot.
But moments before, Italy’s Guardia di Finanza, or financial police, which also serves borders and customs, was dispatched to intercept the crowded boat.
The European Border and Coast Guard Agency, commonly known as Frontex, first spotted the vessel in the Ionian Sea at about 10:35pm on February 25 evening.
Agency officials alerted the Italian authorities to it, stressing that no one appeared to have a life vest on – the Guardia di Finanza sent out two patrols to ‘intercept’ it.
At 4am, after the force called off the search due to bad weather, the ship was torn apart, the Milan-based Corriere della Sera newspaper and Sky TG24 reported.
The death toll grew – and fast – as bodies of people from Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan crossing from Turkey washed up ashore over the next few days.
More are months on still missing.
According to Corriere della Sera, citing a search warrant issued by prosecutors, investigators have found ‘significant anomalies’ in a logbook for one of the motorboats dispatched.
Some pages were not written when the border officers were conducting a search but hours later instead – by then, the shipwreck was headline news.
The motorboat, identified as V5006, was actually at the port in Crotone, Calabria, at the time the log said it was out at sea searching for the migrants.
Three personnel have been brought in, though it is unclear whether they were involved in the search or working in the port giving orders.
Sky TG24 reported that three other people are being investigated, though their names had been blacked out in the warrant.
In the course of Italy’s investigation, four men have been arrested on suspicion of being people smugglers among the 80 survivors.
The boat departed from Cesme, a small port west of Izmir, four days before the shipwreck.
The Guardia di Finanza and Frontext have been approached for comment.
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