26 Oct 2013

Eritreans hold mock funeral in Italy

9:51 pm on 26 October 2013

Hundreds of Eritrean refugees have held a mock funeral outside the Italian parliament to remember the victims of a capsize earlier this month.

More than 350 people - mostly from Eritrea - drowned when their boat sank near the Italian island of Lampedusa.

In the past few days the Italian authorities have rescued almost 800 illegal migrants from several boats in the Straits of Sicily.

Authorities received a string of mayday calls relating to five separate boats, the BBC reports.

The first involved an inflatable boat in trouble in waters south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. Coastguards found nearly 100 people on board.

Later, they rescued about 200 migrants, more than 50 of them children, aboard another vessel.

Three more emergencies were called in during the course of the night and by dawn more than 700 people had been picked up, many of them fleeing Syria.

Calls for coordinated European response

Italy is urging European leaders to give more help to Mediterranean countries to address illegal migration and calling for a more coordinated European response to the crisis.

The 300-bed refugee centre on Lampedusa - where many illegal migrants enter Europe - is currently housing 700 people, with more arriving every day.

Earlier this month, two deadly shipwrecks prompted Italy to increase sea and air patrols along its coast to rescue migrant boats in trouble.

As well as the hundreds who drowned off Lampedusa on 3 October, another 33 people died when their boat sank in the same area just over a week later.