Share This Page

Tragedy inspires calls for immigration policy

| Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, 6:24 p.m.
A boy sleeps in a temporary camp in the Italian island of Lampedusa, Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. A ship carrying African migrants toward Italy caught fire and capsized off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa Thursday, spilling hundreds of passengers into the sea, officials said. The scope of the tragedy at Lampedusa, with 111 bodies recovered so far, 155 people rescued and up to an estimated 250 still missing, according to officials, prompted outpourings of grief and demands for a comprehensive European Union immigration policy to deal with the tens of thousands of migrants fleeing poverty and strife in Africa and the Middle East. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

LAMPEDUSA, Italy — The friends were heading out on a fishing trip, when one heard voices from the sea.

Don't be silly, Vito Fiorino told him — it's only the seagulls' early morning song. Then, about 500 yards from shore, he saw heads bobbing in the water.

Dozens of Africans were floating, too weak to grab a life preserver and so slippery from gasoline that it was hard to pull them on board. Some grasped empty water bottles to stay afloat.

“It was a scene from a film, something you hope never to see in life,” he told The Associated Press. “They were exhausted. When I threw the lifesaver, they had a hard time doing two strokes to reach it.”

Fiorino says he and his friends were the first to reach the fiery wreck about 7 a.m. Thursday, sounding the alarm and saving 47 people before the Coast Guard and other vessels arrived to help, eventually rescuing a total of 155 people. The migrants told Fiorino they had been in the water for three hours.

The scope of the tragedy at Lampedusa — with 111 bodies recovered so far and more than 200 missing, according to survivor accounts given to U.N. officials — has prompted outpourings of grief and calls for a comprehensive EU immigration policy to deal with the tens of thousands fleeing poverty and strife in Africa and the Middle East.

On a pilgrimage to Assisi, Pope Francis called the tragedy a “day of tears” and denounced a “savage” system he said drives people to leave their homes for a better life and turns a blind eye when they die in the process.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.