Rome: Italian coastguards searched the
Mediterranean Sea today for the bodies of 73 migrants from
Eritrea feared dead from hunger and thirst whilst trying to
reach Europe from North Africa.
They began looking for the missing after five other
migrants -- rescued the day before off Lampedusa island --
said they had perished during the voyage and that their bodies
had been dumped at sea.
"Searches are underway, but for the moment we have
recovered no bodies," an official with the Guardia de Finanza
(customs) coastguard service in Lampedusa told.
The emaciated survivors said their small 12-metre boat --
which set off from Libya -- had been adrift without fuel for
20 days, and that they received no help from several passing
"As if fear were more important than the duty to help
others at sea," said UN High Commissioner for Refugees
spokeswoman Laura Boldrini, describing the reported failure to
help as "alarming."
The disappearances reignited a furore against Prime
Minister Silvio Berlusconi`s anti-immigration policies,
including a May deal with Tripoli aimed at preventing migrants
headed for Europe from using Libya as a springboard.
"The fight against illegal immigration is one thing, but
the lack of respect for human rights is another," said Dario
Franceschini, leader of the opposition Democratic Party.