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Funerals held in Malta for drowned migrants

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EU commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos stands during a funeral service for 24 migrants drowned while trying to reach the Southern coasts of Italy, in Msida, in the outskirts of Valletta, Malta, Thursday, April 23, 2015.

EU commissioner for Migration Dimitris Avramopoulos stands during a funeral service for 24 migrants drowned while trying to reach the Southern coasts of Italy, in Msida, in the outskirts of Valletta, Malta, Thursday, April 23, 2015. PHOTO: AFP

FUNERALS for 24 people killed in the worst ever recorded capsizing of a migrant boat in the Mediterranean have been held in Malta.

An estimated 800 people died in Sunday’s disaster. Italian police say the captain crashed the boat by mistake against a merchant rescue ship.

The number of deaths in such incidents has now reached 1,750 so far this year.

European Union leaders are holding an emergency summit later to find ways to stem the number of people risking their lives.

The 24 men laid to rest here were mourned, even though their names are unknown.

Migrants who themselves made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life joined Maltese government officials and international representatives in a white marquee erected on the helicopter pad outside Valletta’s Mater Dei hospital.

As the coffins were set down on a red carpet, women from Somalia, Eritrea and other parts of Sub-Saharan Africa wept openly, wiping away tears with their headscarves.

Imam Mohammed El Sadi said all those who had died were brothers before God. He told the congregation that all people were migrants and that life was a journey.

The Bishop of Gozo, Monsignor Mario Grech, said the men were fellow human beings, regardless of creed, nationality or race.

With no known families to return their remains to, the men will be buried in common graves in Malta’s Addolorata Cemetery.

The number of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa has spiked in recent months, leading to huge numbers of people trying to reach Europe in unseaworthy and often overcrowded vessels.

More than 21,000 people are estimated to have reached Italy alone this year, with another 13,000 crossing in the eastern Mediterranean and 1,800 reaching Spain.


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