State Funeral for drowned asylum seekers
Italy’s prime minister says there will be a state funeral for hundreds of people who died when a migrant boat sank off the Mediterranean island of Lampedusa last week.
Enrico Letta made the commitment during a visit to the island with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso.
The pair have vowed to step up efforts to stem the region’s long-running immigration crisis.
Mr Letta and Mr Barroso were heckled by local residents shouting “Shame!” when they arrived on Lampedusa, prompting them to make an unplanned stop at its badly overcrowded immigration centre.
In a press conference, Mr Barroso pledged $43 million in emergency funds to improve conditions at the immigration centre, where hundreds of people have been forced to sleep outside on the ground for days.
The leaders also paid their respects to the dead, standing before 280 coffins arranged in rows.
Some of them, small and white, held the bodies of children who died in the disaster.
“The image of hundreds of coffins will never get out of my mind,” a visibly shaken Mr Barosso said.
During the same press conference, Mr Letta announced that a state funeral would be held for the victims.”
In Europe, Pope Francis has called the sinking of the boat in Lampedusa and the resulting loss of life a disgrace, saying, “Let us unite our effort so that similar tragedies do not happen again”.
The Italian Prime Minister called the accident “an enormous tragedy”. Lampedusa’s mayor, Giusi Nocolini said, “These are refugees. We have a duty to take them in. They must be respected”.
Perhaps most striking have been the comments by the Interior Minister, Cecile Kyenge, who called for Europe to take action on the problem, stating that “we cannot underestimate this situation. We are witnessing a human tragedy [that affects] all the countries of Europe”.
And how do we do it down-under?…