Eritrean news: EU’s Barroso ‘shocked and saddened’ by Lampedusa tragedy, Italy’s Letta announces state funeral for victims.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said on Wednesday (October 9) he was “profoundly shocked” by scenes of coffins of victims of a shipwreck off Sicily which killed hundreds of African migrants who risked a dangerous sea crossing in search of a better life.
“The image of hundreds of coffins will never get out of my mind. It’s something, I think, one can not forget. Coffins of babies, coffins with a mother and the child that was born just at that moment. This is something that profoundly shocked me, and deeply saddened myself,” Barroso told reporters during his visit to the island of Lampedusa.
Barroso and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta paid a visit to the hangar serving as mortuary holding the coffins of the victims, many of who were children. They also met survivors and people who had participated in the rescue.
The two leaders were heckled repeatedly by local residents shouting “Shame!” and “Assasins” upon their arrival, prompting them to make an unplanned stop at Lampedusa’s badly overcroweded immigration centre.
Letta announced at a news conference that Italy will hold a state funeral for the victims of the shipwreck.
“The decision that I can announce here is that there will be a state funeral for the victims of what happened. All choices and decisions are made within a logic of partaking in the dramatic suffering, in the human tragedy that, in this magnitude, had never before taken place in the Mediterranean,” Letta said.
Letta also pledged to put the topic of migration in full focus of the European Union agenda and urged member states to prioritize these issues.
“We’ll do whatever it takes to draw the attention of all European states towards these issues. We know that the Commission is involved. We also know that if the Commission and all the member states do not understand how dramatic this priority is, then the Commission risks having its hands tied. So I’m happy to have them (EC’s Barroso and Commissioner Malmstrom) here today because their presence here, together with us, is a way to say all European states that this is a European tragedy, Italy is doing its part and will continue to do its part, but it’s a European tragedy that Europe needs to assume as such,” he said.
Barroso vowed to step up efforts to stem the long-running immigration crisis and pledged 30 million euros in emergency funds that can be used also to improve conditions on Lampedusa, where hundreds have been forced to sleep outside on the ground for days.
“Is a concrete announcement I can make today, for additional funding for Italy of 30 million euros. But of course we know that much more needs to be done together with our member states,” he said.
With Lampedusa just over 110 km (70 miles) from Tunisia, Italy has borne the brunt of migration from North Africa for more than a decade, but reception centres remain inadequate.
More than 900 migrants, most of them likely eligible for asylum, continue to be packed inside a gated immigration centre on Lampedusa built to house 250. Hundreds are sleeping outside and have been drenched by torrential rains in recent days.