ROME, Italy — Some 51 migrants including a small baby landed on a beach in southern Italy on Thursday, despite insistence from the far-right interior minister that the country is closed to new arrivals.
Locals in the small town of Torre Melissa in Calabria were woken by the cries of the Kurdish migrants, who had set sail from Turkey and began calling out when they neared land, according to Italian media reports.
The interior ministry said they were the first arrivals of the year. Some 23,270 people landed in Italy in 2018, most of whom had set off from crisis-hit Libya in North Africa.
Those arriving from Turkey are often packed into sailing boats by Ukrainian or Russian people smugglers and dropped off on beaches in the south of Italy at night.
The latest arrivals, including six women and four children — one of whom is only a few months old — were helped to shore by the inhabitants and taken to a hotel.
They were expected to be transferred to a reception center later. Two alleged people smugglers were arrested.
Despite Interior Minister Matteo Salvini’s assertion that the country’s “ports are closed” to would-be asylum seekers, arrivals have continued since he took up his post in June last year, averaging 44 migrants a day.