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More than 100 African migrants dead after boat capsizes off Italian coast

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (

Five hundred African migrants, chiefly from Somalia and Eritrea are estimated to have been on the boat that capsized off the coast of Lampedusa in Sicily this week. At least 114 people are reported dead and hundreds more remain missing, according to coastal authorities. 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Bodies pulled from the water were laid along quayside in what is one of the worst disasters to hit the perilous route for migrants seeking to reach Europe from Africa. "It's horrific, like a cemetery, they are still bringing them out," Lampedusa Mayor Giusi Nicolini said.

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At least 151 survivors had been rescued after the 66-foot-long boat caught fire and sank about half a mile off the island.

The U.N. refugee agency UNHCR says the passengers had boarded the boat in Libya. This latest disaster comes four days ago after 13 migrants drowned off eastern Sicily. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano says that action was needed by the European Union to stem "a succession of massacres of innocent people."

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Almost 500 people were reported dead or missing last year making the crossing from Tunisia to Italy, the UNHCR says. The number of refugees have been boosted by thousands of refugees from the civil war in Syria.

"I commend the swift action taken by the Italian coastguard to save lives. At the same time, I am dismayed at the rising global phenomenon of migrants and people fleeing conflict or persecution and perishing at sea," U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres said.

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African migrants frequently land on Lampedusa, just 70 miles from the coast of Tunisia and are often picked up at sea in dangerously overcrowded boats by the Italian coastguard.

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Pope Francis, who visited the island in July on his first papal trip outside Rome, said he felt "great pain" for the "many victims of the latest tragic shipwreck today off Lampedusa.

"The word that comes to mind is 'shame," Francis said in unscripted remarks after a speech in the Vatican. "Let us unite our strengths so that such tragedies never happened again."

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