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article imageItaly marks 4th anniversary of migrant shipwreck off Lampedusa

By AFP     Oct 3, 2017 in World

Italy held a "day of remembrance" Tuesday for those who drowned in a shipwreck off Lampedusa four years ago and the 15,500 migrants lost at sea in the Mediterranean since then.

On October 3, 2013, an overcrowded boat caught fire and sank close to the Italian island: 366 bodies were recovered and the endless rows of coffins shamed Italy and then the rest of Europe into launching rescue operations.

But the many military, humanitarian and commercial ships that have helped save migrants from the waves since -- mostly off Libya -- have been unable to prevent over 15,500 people from dying or disappearing at sea.

An average of one person in every 40 attempting the voyage has drowned or is missing feared dead.

Despite a sharp drop in the number of departures from Libya this summer, there are still many trying to cross to Europe: over the last week more than 3,400 migrants have arrived in Italy, while three bodies have been recovered.

"Saving lives in the Mediterranean must still be a top priority for states," the UN's refugee agency said Tuesday.

"They must also step up efforts to provide alternative, legal means... for people fleeing war, violence and persecution to be able to move to a safe place without having to resort to traffickers," it added in a statement.

Survivors of the 2013 tragedy threw a wreath into the waves off Lampedusa on Tuesday, while the many boats taking part in the ceremony sounded their horns in memory of all victims.

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