ROME: Survivors of Italy’s asylum shipwreck disaster held a sit-in at Lampedusa’s refugee center Monday, demanding to be taken to Sicily to join in a memorial ceremony for the victims.
“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.
The Italian government had promised a state funeral for those who drowned after their 20-meter boat caught fire, capsized and sank within sight of the shore on Oct. 3, killing 366.
But with over 200 of the victims already buried in cemeteries in the Sicilian city of Agrigento, a ceremony will be held in their memory instead.
Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Angelino Alfano are expected to attend, along with Integration Minister Cecile Kyenge.
In Rome, some 350 Eritreans gathered with candles and signs reading, “You will always remain in our hearts.”
“Lampedusa is hope, but Lampedusa is also a tomb for many,” one mourner told La Repubblica video.
Boats laden with people continue to arrive. The U.N. refugee agency said 32,000 asylum seekers have landed in Italy and Malta so far this year.
Most leave from Libya and arrive to Lampedusa, where the local refugee center is severely overcrowded.