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Protester Antonio Viterutti told AFP that the visit by Mr Meloni and ministers was an attempt to divert attention away from criticism.

The 28-year-old student said, “I want to come here today to condemn the hypocrisy of the Italian government, which carries out political stunts by leaving large numbers of people to die at sea, fleeing hunger, war and misery.

Ministers are expected to agree new rules to toughen punishments for traffickers and boost legal routes for foreign workers, the prime minister’s office said.

“In this chest”

Crotone’s beach, still littered with the wreckage of the shipwreck, stands a wooden cross from a boat that once carried about 180 people.

80-year-old resident Maria Panebianco said, “I have them in my heart. All these children, these women who came to find peace instead of finding death.” It hurts me. It hurts me so much.”

The interior ministry said on Thursday it had begun the process of sending the bodies of migrants back to their home countries. This includes a planned operation to return 16 bodies to Afghanistan.

The body of one Afghan migrant was buried at the Crotone cemetery this week, while the bodies of seven others were moved to a Muslim cemetery in Bologna.

Mr Meloni’s far-right party, the Brotherhood of Italy, won elections last year on a pledge to curb maritime arrivals, and Mr Meloni’s ruling coalition, which includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League party, is a charity. They are cracking down on the group’s rescue boats.

Critics say the government’s policy of dealing with migrant ships in the central Mediterranean The world’s most dangerous intersection -The rescue may have been fatally delayed last month as a matter of law enforcement rather than a humanitarian issue. Italian PM gathers ministers near deadly migrant shipwreck

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