Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Italy migrant death toll reaches 194

07 October 2013, 07:30

Lampedusa - Pairs of divers plumbed calmer seas off the Italian island of Lampedusa on Sunday to recover the corpses of would-be asylum seekers who died when a fishing boat packed with 500 African migrants capsized within sight of land.

By nightfall, 83 bodies had been retrieved, including one child, raising the official death toll to 194.

About 150 more are believed to still be missing, many likely trapped in the wreckage 47m below the surface.

The enormous scale of the tragedy, which could become the largest death toll in a migrant shipwreck in the Mediterranean on record, has created momentum for a comprehensive European Union immigration policy to cope with the tens of thousands fleeing misery and strife in Africa and the Middle East.

"The Mediterranean cannot remain a huge cemetery under the open skies," French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said on French TV station iTele.

Fabius said France and Italy have asked that the issue be placed on the agenda of an EU interior ministers' meeting on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso plans to visit the island, Italy's southernmost point and a frequent destination for migrants trying to reach a safe haven.

Tens of thousands arrive there each year seeking refugee status in Europe.

Nearly all of the 155 survivors of Thursday's tragedy remain at the island's refugee centre. None consented to speak with reporters who visited the centre on Sunday.

The survivors - the vast majority of them men - stayed in small groups in one corner of the yard, working together to remember the names of the people who had perished so the bodies can be identified. Forty-one are minors between the ages of 11 and 17.

Most, if not all of the migrants on the boat, came from Eritrea.

"The dynamics of the shipwreck are not completely known, but it is clear many women did not make it. They nearly all died," said Filippo Ungaro of Save the Children. To date, 55 of the 194 dead are women, and five are small children.

Conditions ‘shameful’

Italy's Congolese-born integration minister, Cecile Kyenge, watched in silence as soldiers transferred body bags from boats onto trucks to bring to a makeshift morgue.

"There are no words in front of the dead," Kyenge told reporters later. "They are difficult moments that make us face our responsibilities."

She said it was time for reflection "to prevent new tragedies" and said Italy could not deal with the migrant flows alone.

Earlier, she visited the survivors in the migrant centre, calling the conditions "shameful". Many migrants, including the survivors of Thursday's shipwreck, are sleeping on mattresses in the open because of overcrowding: the centre is built for 250 and is now housing more than 1 000 people, including migrants from Somalia and Syria.

A thunderstorm struck before dawn on Sunday, sending them scrambling for cover under tarps or in buses, Ungaro said. While the centre is supposed to be a place of transit, many wind up there for weeks and the bathrooms and showers aren't adequate for the present population.

"The conditions are not acceptable. It isn't worthy," he said.

Laura Boldrini, the speaker of Italy's lower house who led a parliamentary delegation to Lampedusa, said the migrants who are reaching Europe's shores now are by and large asylum seekers, not economic migrants, as has been the case in the past.

The problem, she said, needs to be addressed in part at the countries of origin, now increasingly Syria, Somalia and Eritrea, to seek political solutions to conflicts behind the exoduses and the countries of transit, like Libya and Tunisia, so systems are constructed allowing asylum seekers to make their applications without facing perilous sea journeys.

She also said European countries need to align their immigration policies, noting that punitive policies, like Italy's law charging migrants with illegal immigration, won't act as a deterrent.

"How can we let asylum-seekers die in the sea," she said in a phone interview. "Something has to change to give sense to this emotion. Otherwise, all of this doesn't' have any sense."

Fabius, the French foreign minister, said Europe must boost development aid to countries from where migrants depart and maritime borders must be better controlled, including by EU agency Frontex, in charge of border management.

He also said traffickers must be severely sanctioned, adding: "Those people make their fortunes from deaths".

- AP


Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...