Memorial held for migrants who died at sea

Commemoration for 366 people who died off coast of Italy held amid sit-in by survivors of tragedy.

Last Modified: 21 Oct 2013 16:06
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A memorial has been held in Sicily for migrants who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea earlier this month, but survivors of the disaster, being held on the island of Lampedusa, were unable to attend the service.

The Italian government had promised a state funeral for those who drowned after their 20-metre boat caught fire, capsized and sank within sight of the shore on October 3, killing 366 people.

A memorial was held instead though, as more than 200 of the victims had already been buried in the Sicilian city of Agrigento.

The ceremony also commemorated those killed just days after the first shipwreck, when another heavily laden boat sank off Malta.

At least 36 of the Syrian refugees on board drowned, though the Maltese government has said the final toll could be as high as 200.

Survivors of the tragedy however held a sit-in at Lampedusa refugee centre in protest against being unable to attend the memorial for the victims in Sicily.

"We have lost wives, children. Why won't the authorities let us attend the ceremony, to grieve and say goodbye?" one of dozens of Eritreans protesting told SKY TG24 television.

Al Jazeera's Simon Mc Gregor-Wood, reporting from the island of Lampedusa said that the survivors held their own memorial on the island and that it was "very moving" with Muslim and Christian Eriteans joining in prayer together.

He said that the local population of the island was also dealing with the influx of migrants on the island and that there was a feeling of anger that they had been betrayed by the European Union and the Italian government.

Despite the tragedies, boats laden with people continue to arrive.

The United Nations refugee agency says 32,000 asylum seekers have landed in Italy and Malta so far this year.

Italy has appealed to the EU states for help in coping with the refugees washing up on its shore and wants migration issues to be put on the agenda of summit talks in Brussels this week.


Al Jazeera and agencies
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