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IMMIGRATION

Six migrants drown, 100 rescued off Sicily

The Italian coastguard found Saturday the dead bodies of six clandestine migrants on a tourist beach in Sicily while nearly 100 others, thought to be Syrians and some Egyptians, were rescued in the latest desperate attempt to reach Europe.

Six migrants drown, 100 rescued off Sicily
This picture shows the MV Salamis tanker (C) carrying 102 migrants rescued from a leaking dinghy arrives at Syracuse, in Sicily after being turned away by Malta. AFP Photo / Guardia di Finanza

"We were alerted just after 5:30 am (0330 GMT) that a boat had run aground across from a beach resort" near the island's second largest city Catania, said spokesman for the port authority Roberto D'Arrigo.

"Most of the migrants jumped into the water" when they saw the coastline, he said.

The bodies of two of the dead migrants were found on the beach while "four other bodies were recovered" by rescuers around the boat, as they apparently did not know how to swim and drowned, authorities said.

A three-year-old child suffering from dehydration and a pregnant woman have been hospitalized.

D'Arrigo said that all the passengers were young adults and one of the deceased was a teenager.

Most of the passengers were on the shore when authorities arrived at the scene, he said, indicating a total of "91 migrants, Syrians and Egyptians" had been saved and were currently being identified by authorities.

Earlier investigators had said the 18-metre-long (59-feet) boat was carrying around 120 people.

Dario Monteforte, owner of the Lido Verde which alerted authorities, told Sky TG24 television that he "saw a crowd of youths on the beach running toward the road".

Monteforte, visibly shaken, has closed his establishment for the weekend.

"Something has to be done. This is really an unending tragedy," he said of the plight of thousands of clandestine migrants in rickety boats who seek to reach Italian shores each year.

According to D'Arrigo, it was "totally unusual" for migrants to land on a beach in Catania as "normally they arrive further south in the region of Syracuse", or else at the extreme southern point of Sicily or the island of Lampedusa.

Another group of about 100 migrants, mostly Syrian families, were rescued overnight Wednesday off the coast of Calabria on the Italian mainland.

They had left Syria two weeks earlier and had to change boats several times before being left adrift aboard an 11-metre (35-foot) vessel.

The conflict in Syria has killed more than 100,000 people since it erupted in March 2011 and millions more have been displaced or fled the country, according to the United Nations.

Improved weather and calmer waters have seen a spike in boat people arrivals in Italy in recent days.

But shipwrecks are frequent because the boats are often old and overloaded.

Human traffickers regularly abandon their passengers when Italian or Maltese coastguards spot them.

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READER QUESTIONS

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question. 

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