(Lampedusa – 14 October 2013) – The Y-PFDJ team has been in Lampedusa for almost 24 hours and the facts and situation on the ground is nowhere near hyped hysteria and propaganda depicted in the media since the unfortunate tragedy unfolded. The atmosphere is understandably somber. There is a sense of deep reflection as this has been a traumatic and tragic experience. At this time, the focus is on mourning the dead, and bringing their remains home for burial. The survivors are highly suspicious and apprehensive about talking to the media and our approach, as well as protection of their privacy is important.
The main focus at the moment is to assist with queries of the survivors and those families whose loved ones were lost in the October 3rd migrant boat accident. The team met with many of them yesterday and one can imagine the sensitivity that is needed to comfort them as we gather information, to find out what really happened. This is especially hard at a time people are dealing with their loss. However, we also know the information is crucial if it is going to help understand and prevent this kind of incidents from happening again.
Yesterday at the initiation of Eritrea’s Ambassador Zemede Tekle, five African Ambassadors ( Congo, Morocco, Senegal, Cape Verde and Algeria) arrived at Lampedusa to talk to the political and legal administrative personnel of the Island and the discussions are continuing today. Last night, the team met and spoke with Ambassador Zemede who stressed the Eritrean government’s position on the importance of the speedy return of the Eritrean bodies, who remain in the custody of the Italian government.
Eritrea is pressing the Italian legal and political institutions to quickly respond to the request made by the Eritrean government for a quick dignified and appropriate return of the bodies to their final resting place. An orderly and quick repatriation of the remains of their loved one is what the families are asking and it is not clear why the Italian Government is dragging its feet on this colossal issue. The Eritrean government is ready to arrange the necessary aircraft and other logistical facility at its own cost to transport the bodies in a manner that is consistent with Eritrean culture.
A lot of issues are being raised and the issue of identifying the bodies must take precedence. There are a number of bodies that cannot be identified at this time, adding to the frustration of the families who are here seeking closure on the plight of their loved ones. DNA of all the bodies recovered has been collected before they were put in the coffins, but the Italian government has been reluctant to initiation of talks on the return of the remains to Eritrea.
Yesterday, some remains were transferred to mainland Italy (Sicily Zone) to an administrative city called Agrigento and logistics was the reason given, citing the Island of Lampedusa’s lack of capacity to house the bodies. The lack of appropriate response by the Italian government to the repeated requests made by the Eritrean government to date is of great concern. Some members of the team will be relocating to the city of Agrigento to follow up on the issue in the next two days. There is already a representative of Eritrean Embassy in that city who has initiated talks on the speedy return of the bodies.
Finally, there are few miscreants here in Lampedusa who want to invent their own reality of the situation and attempt to achieve their own narrow and perverted agendas at the expense of the suffering of Eritreans. These unsavory characters and their roles in the tragedy are being sadly observed by those who are mourning and the wider public. The case of returning the Eritrean remains home for proper burial is the most compelling issue at this time. The people and government of Eritrea will continue to pressure the Italian government to release the remains as soon as possible.
Y-PFDJ team will follow the situation and the issues surrounding the Lampedusa tragedy closely.
Y-PFDJ calls on the Italian government to respect international law and the people of Eritrea by releasing the remains of our brothers and sisters without further delay.
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