Lampedusa disaster latest: Bodies continue to be recovered from inside sunken boat as death toll hits 211

Italian minister calls for immigration law, forcing criminal inquiries into survivors, to be abolished

Rescuers recovered 17 more bodies from the sunken migrant vessel off the coast of Lampedusa on Monday as the death toll rose to 211.

They said it would take another two days to complete the grim task and  recover all the 350 or so migrants who are thought to have perished in last week’s disaster.

Coast Guard Captain Filippo Marini said bodies had been found in the main cabin. “Now we have to get inside the hold,” he said. But bad weather halted operations by lunchtime.

One diver, Riccardo Nobile, who helped recover 83 bodies on Sunday, told AP that the work inside the boat, 50m below the surface, was demanding physically and mentally.

“I found myself for more than an hour among these corpses. It was difficult to look straight at their faces, to see their wounds, see their tormented expressions, their outstretched arms. But this is our job.”

Angelo Vesto, an army officer responsible for transporting the black body bags, said: “There are lots of children. You can imagine seeing your own children. It is a tragic scene.”

Meanwhile, Cécile Kyenge, the Congo-born Minister for Integration, has called for the abolition of the controversial “Bossi-Fini” law that makes being an illegal immigrant a criminal offence. The legislation, brought in by Silvio Berlusconi’s xenophobic Northern League coalition parties several years ago, has forced magistrates to open criminal inquiries into the  survivors of the Lampedusa disaster.

There have been claims the law dissuaded some fishermen from helping  the migrants – though there is evidence some fishermen did come to the aid of the sinking ship.

Ms Kyenge said: “Someone fleeing a war or a conflict and who finds himself here is investigated. But international laws must be respected.

“We cannot wait for another incident like this before we change things. In the coming days we will look at the laws on immigration and the crime of being a clandestine immigrant.”

Lampedusa’s mayor, Gisui Nicolini, backed the minister: “We need to abolish the Bossi-Fini law,” she said. And she defended Ms Kyenge, Italy’s first black minister, from attacks by figures in the Northern League who have been angered by her calls for a more progressive immigration policy.

She said key League figure Matteo Salvini had “offended human dignity”. “He defined as illegal immigrants those dead babies in the sea. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

Many of the traumatised survivors are living in conditions described by Ms Kyenge as “shameful” in Lampedusa’s overcrowded refugee centre. The bodies are being stored in coffins in an airport hangar.

The tragedy at Lampedusa has not deterred other migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing from Africa to Europe. At dawn today 200 more refugees arrived at the port of Pozzallo on the southern coast of Sicily. A French ship docked with 29 Syrians, while an African merchant vessel brought 171 migrants picked up from two boats it had found in difficulty.

Josè Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, who is due to visit Lampedusa on Wednesday, said he would discuss with the Italian authorities new measures at a national and European level to deal with migrant vessels from Africa.

* An earlier sinking off the coast of Indonesia 10 days ago has many similarities to the Lampedusa incident.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy