José Manuel Barroso & Enriso Letta heckled on Lampedusa visit

Wednesday 09 October 2013 22.23
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José Manuel Barroso and Enrico Letta were heckled by crowds
José Manuel Barroso and Enrico Letta were heckled by crowds
232 bodies have been brought to the surface since the search began on 3 October
232 bodies have been brought to the surface since the search began on 3 October
Rough seas have hampered the operation to recover bodies from the wreck that is submerged in more than 40 metres of water
Rough seas have hampered the operation to recover bodies from the wreck that is submerged in more than 40 metres of water

Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta has said state funerals will be held for the hundreds of African migrants who drowned off the island of Lampedusa.

Mr Letta and President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso were heckled and shouted at during a visit to the island of Lampedusa.

Islanders are angry that little has been done to help the 155 migrants that survived the shipwreck off the coast nearly a week ago.

They have also lost patience with the European Union saying it is not doing enough to try to stem the almost constant influx of migrants.

Mr Barroso vowed to step up efforts to address the situation, before he and Mr Letta paid their respects to the dead, standing before around 280 coffins arranged in rows.

Mr Barroso also pledged €30m in emergency funding to be used to improve conditions at the island's immigration centre where hundreds have been forced to sleep outside on the ground for days.

Visibly shaken, Mr Barroso said: "The image of hundreds of coffins will never get out of my mind."

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom also expressed shock at the number of dead, saying: "This is not the EU we want. We need to do everything we can to prevent this from happening again. It requires EU action."

Earlier, a Tunisian man suspected of being the driver of the boat that sank was arrested by Italian police.

Diving teams are continuing their search for bodies still trapped in the ship wreck off the coast.

Divers yesterday recovered an additional 38 bodies from the wreck of that boat, which was packed with African migrants before it sank off the island.

So far, 232 bodies have been brought to the surface since the search began on 3 October.

Rough seas have hampered the operation to recover bodies from the wreck that is submerged in more than 40 metres of water.

Because of its depth, divers are only able to remain on the wreck for a few minutes at a time and the recovery work has been slow.

All the bodies from around the ship and on deck have now been recovered, leaving dozens still inside the vessel.

More than 300 people are feared drowned in the disaster, one of the worst single incidents involving economic migrants and refugees attempting the perilous sea crossing from northern Africa to Europe.

The boat, carrying around 500 mainly Eritrean and Somali migrants, capsized and sank, throwing hundreds into the water.

Only 155 survivors were rescued.

Italy has asked for more help from the EU in dealing with the problem of migrants arriving by sea.

As of a week ago, about 30,100 migrants had reached Italy by sea this year.

Of those, 7,500 fled the Syrian civil war, 7,500 political oppression in Eritrea and 3,000 violence in Somalia.

Italy is asking for more EU support and an overhaul of the union's immigration rules.