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Coffins Of Victims From October 3 Migrant Boat Tragedy Bound For Sicily

posted 12 Oct 2013, 12:08 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 12 Oct 2013, 12:09 ]

Coffins of many of those killed in October 3 migrant boat sinking are loaded onto ship to be transported to Sicily.

 LAMPEDUSA, ITALY (OCTOBER 12, 2013) (REUTERS) -  Italian authorities started moving coffins containing the bodies of shipwrecked migrants from the October 3 tragedy on Saturday (October 12) as Italian and Maltese navy ships continued to search to bodies and survivors from another boat that sank about 60 nautical miles south of Sicilyon Friday (October 11).

The coffins were loaded onto an Italian naval ship, the Cassiopea, that will take them to Porto Empedocle in Sicily. A total of 359 bodies were recovered from the wreck of a boat that was thought to be carrying more than 500 people.

The vessel sank less than a kilometre from Lampedusa, a tiny island between Sicily and Tunisiawhich has become the main entry point into Europe for migrant boats.

Over the past two decades, arrivals from North Africa have become a regular feature in favourable summer sailing conditions, but this year the crisis has been worsened by instability in Egypt andLibya and the civil war in Syria.

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has already pressed for the crisis to be included on the European Council agenda at its October 24-25 meeting although Europe has long struggled to come up with a comprehensive response to the crisis.

According to estimates by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, around 32,000 migrants have arrived in southern Italy and Malta so far this year, about two thirds of whom have filed asylum requests.

Italy, deep in recession and pressed by EU budget rules to rein in public spending, has seen its reception facilities on Lampedusa and other parts of Sicily strained to breaking point and it has called repeatedly for more help to confront a crisis it says is a European emergency.

The hundreds of deaths have also set off a fierce political debate in Italy over tough rules intended to combat clandestine immigration which make it an offence to offer assistance to illegal migrant boats.