Lampedusa, Italy – Survivors and relatives of the hundreds that died in two shipwrecks 10 years ago, off the Italian island of Lampedusa, cried and embraced one another on Tuesday.
On October 3, 2013, a rickety trawler carrying asylum seekers from Eritrea and Somalia capsized a short distance off the island’s famed islet, Rabbit Island. Only 155 people survived, while 368 people drowned.
Days later, on October 11, a second vessel carrying mostly Syrians fleeing the war-torn country capsized some 32km (20 miles) off the coast, killing 268 people, including 60 children.
Emmanuel Ghebreyusu, 53, said his niece would have been 30 had she survived the disaster.
“It has really been tough over the past 10 years,” Ghebreyusu said. “Coming back to Lampedusa was painful but necessary to remember the victims, as well as over 28,000 people who have since died crossing the Mediterranean Sea.”
The mourners marched to the five-metre (16-foot) high Gate of Europe, a monument designed by the Italian sculptor Mimmo Paladino that is built like a gateway, where they tossed flowers into the sea, a poignant symbol of their suffering.
“I wish authorities would do more to save lives. Human lives are more important than anything,” he said.
Vito Fiorino, a fisherman who pulled 47 people out of the water on October 3, said he remembered one man who had been left naked by the fury of the sea.
“He was covering himself to preserve some dignity, so I took off my trousers and gave them to him.”
Comitato Tre Ottobre, a coalition of civil rights groups and activists that campaigned to make October 3 a “National Day of Remembrance and Reception” under Italian law, said Italian and European institutions had failed over the past decade to take adequate action to save lives at sea.
“These have been 10 years of indifference, we haven’t learned anything,” Tareke Brhane, the coalition’s president, said.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that about 5,000 people have died over the past 18 months, but Brhane said the real numbers are much higher.
“Nobody goes looking for the bodies of migrants,” Brhane said. “Even when dead, they remain invisible.”