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Migrant shipwreck survivors barred from Sicily funeral ceremony

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Migrant shipwreck survivors barred from Sicily funeral ceremony

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State funerals have been held in Sicily for the African migrant victims of recent shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea.

Absent from the ceremony in the port of Agrigento were more than 100 survivors who were denied permission to board a ceremony from Lampedusa.

They reacted by staging a sit-in protest and blocking main roads.

In the worst disaster over 360 mostly Eritrean men, women and children perished.

Representatives of Italy’s Eritrean community travelled to Sicily from Rome.

“We lost so many people, so many boys and young people, even newborn babies. Unborn babies who hadn’t seen the light of day ended up in the sea,” said one Eritrean man.

There were also protests at the presence of a representative of the Eritrean government at the ceremony, as many of the shipwreck victims were likely to have been fleeing repression at home.

The mayor of Agrigento, Marco Zambuto, told Rai state TV that it was “a further blow to those who died”.

He also described the ceremony as a “farce” because of the decision to hold it so far from Lampedusa. “This port (Agrigento) has never seen an immigrant boat arrival,” he said.

On Sunday the Italian coastguard intervened to help another packed ship which got into trouble, this time from Egypt. More than 250 people were taken ashore in Sicily.

Italy has begun to step up its military presence in the Mediterranean north of Tunisia and Libya.