Sunday, 17 May 2015

Hundreds of migrants' bodies will be left in the sea after Mediterranean shipwreck

Charities have criticised the "extraordinary" decision by Sicilian authorities to abandon up to 750 migrant victims of a Mediterranean shipwreck at the bottom of the sea.

The Italian navy has found the wreck of the smuggling boat that capsized and sank last month off the Libyan coast, causing the death of hundreds of migrants who had been locked inside the hold.

However, Giovanni Salvi, public prosecutor in Catania, a city on Sicily's east coast, has said the bodies will not be brought up from the sea bed because "their recovery is not useful" for the investigation into the boat's traffickers.

Christopher Hein, the director of the Italian Council for Refugees, said families had a legal right to identify the bodies.

"This [decision] is extraordinary," he told La Repubblica. "The idea that at the bottom of the Mediterranean there are hundreds of bodies that can't be recovered because they don't help with the investigation makes me very angry.

"From a legal point of view, there is a duty to allow family members to identify the bodies and to become a civil party in the trial against those who are allegedly responsible.

"If there had been Germans, Italians, or any other European citizen, amongst the dead, would the judiciary have made the same decision?" Giovanna Di Benedetto, a spokesman for Save the Children, said it was "absolutely essential" for the bodies to be recovered so that "families can pray next to graves and grieve for the dead".

Mr Salvi claimed it was not the responsibility of the judiciary to recover the bodies, despite prosecutors – who have opened a manslaughter investigation into the tragedy – asking the navy to locate the boat.

Only 28 people survived the disaster on the former fishing boat, which was found at a depth of 1,230ft.

Matteo Renzi, the prime minister, previously said the boat should be raised so that victims could be given proper funerals.

Following a shipwreck in October 2013, the judicial authorities in Agrigento, just 93 miles (150km) west of Catania, recovered 350 bodies from the seabed so they could be identified.

The navy said raising the wreck to the surface was possible, but it was up to prosecutors to decide whether to proceed.

Mr Salvi said: "[Recovering the bodies] is not necessary for us. If the government want to do it for humanitarian reasons then that's fine, but we cannot cope with the costs and the delays to the investigation that it would entail. It's not a decision for the judicial authorities."

Sunday 17 May 2015


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