New migrant landings recorded on the Sicilian island of Lampedusa have once again put under severe strain the local hotspot, which is currently hosting nearly 1,600 migrants. The facility of first hosting was designed to accommodate 350 guests.
Last week, 360 people were transfered from Lampedusa to Porto Empedocle in Sicily. A total of 110 people left by ferry in the morning of Thursday (November 3) and 250 in the evening of the same day. The ferry also transported the bodies of two 20-day-old twins who died of hypothermia and two children aged 2 and 10 months who were killed by a blaze on their boat during the crossing.
Situation is 'heartbreaking', says prefect of Agrigento
Agrigento Prefect Maria Rita Cocciufa called the situation "heartbreaking" when she watched the four little white coffins arrive in Porto Empedocle.
"All this is heartbreaking. We will try, as much as possible, to help the mother, father and four-year-old brother of the twins. As they wait to get protection, they will be housed in a facility in Agrigento which is close to Raffadali," where the bodies of the two babies will be buried, she said.
"We have reported a stratospheric number of arrivals since March. We can never let our guard down, it is a phenomenon that must be governed. And flows, thanks to the condition of the sea, are also continuing during this part of the year," she added, noting that new arrivals include many "families, minors, children."
She then thanked municipal administration for finding burial sites for the victims. "It isn't easy: cemeteries are full everywhere, but everybody showed a great heart under these dramatic circumstances," she concluded.
Mayors feel moved, powerless
The reaction of mayors of the communities involved has been one of commotion but also powerlessness. "The communities in the area of Agrigento are always ready to host -- it is a moral obligation," said the mayor of Favara, Antonio Palumbo, who was also on the pier of Porto Empedocle with the prefect.
"These tragedies don't teach us anything, we always repeat the same things. We are moved, but then we don't really do anything to solve these problems," he added, stressingthat people must be welcomed.
"These victims must be like ghosts who haunt all those who urge not to welcome (migrants) and then let people die at sea -- this is a shameful situation that can't go on."
Silvio Cuffaro, the mayor of Raffadali, the municipality hosting the cemetery where the twins will be buried, launched an appeal to Europe.
"We are doing our duty towards people who were looking for a better life and found death instead, but where is Europe? Investments must be made in their land to give a future to these people who must choose between dying of starvation or risking" death during their "journeys of hope", Cuffaro said.