Pope Francis: solidarity for Lampedusa migrants

2013-10-07 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) In his homily at Monday morning’s mass in Casa Santa Marta, Pope Francis spoke about the Samaritan “who saw and was moved with compassion”, keeping his heart open to humanity and thus bringing himself closer to God.

The importance of truly “seeing” human tragedy, remaining compassionate and rejecting the “globalisation of indifference”, is a theme which Pope Francis has often picked up in relation to the plight of migrants across the world. Most recently, he called for solidarity towards migrants in southern Italy, in the wake of the tragic shipwreck which left hundreds dead when their boat sank last Thursday, just off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa. The Italian coastguard continues to retrieve bodies in the sea around Lampedusa, with the official death toll at 194 as of Monday morning.

Barbara Molinario, who works in the UNCHR’s Italian headquarters in Rome, has been in Lampedusa since Thursday. She spoke to Linda Bordoni about the ongoing efforts to retrieve and identify bodies, and about the difficult living conditions of survivors.

Listen to this interview:

“So far, 194 bodies have been recovered, of which 84 only [on Sunday], but we are expecting unfortunately that many more people will be recovered [on Monday], as the survivors have told us that the majority of people were travelling inside, in the hull of the boat, and could still be trapped inside.

As far as the reception conditions on the island are concerned, there are roughly 1000 people in [Lampedusa’s Centre for First Aid and Welcome] today, and the conditions are really not sustainable, because the Centre currently has 250 places only – this is following the fire in 2011 when some of the dormitories were burnt down, and have yet to be restructured. So you can imagine that with 250 places and 1000 people, most people not only do not get a bed, but are sleeping outside with no cover – it has been raining, so the conditions are really very bad.

We feel as UNHCR that this really needs to be dealt with in an ordinary way, and we cannot talk about an emergency, because it is now pretty much a stable phenomenon. In fact we have been asking throughout the years, since 2011, that this reception facility be restructured, because of course with 250 places only on the island, an emergency could be created, because [the number of people arriving on a single boat is often] larger than the capacity of the Centre.

[The islanders] are suffering together with the survivors for this loss, they participated in a ceremony that we were able to organise just 2 days ago, that was requested specifically by the survivors who needed to pray for their dead. And one of the other things we are trying to facilitate together with the Italian authority is that the victims of this shipwreck be identified. This is what the survivors are asking us, to be able to identify their friends and their relatives, in order to be able to inform the families – we have been receiving a lot of phone calls, asking us about their loved ones who were on the boat and haven’t called them yet.”