The survivors of a shipwreck（1） off Sicily two days ago live in terrible conditions and face criminal prosecution, a delegation of lawmakers and officials said on Saturday as they called for policy changes at home and in the European Union.
Rough seas blocked efforts to recover the bodies trapped inside a boat that sank on Thursday, killing an estimated 300 Eritrean and Somali men, women and children who were seeking a better life in Europe.
Rescue teams expect to find more than 100 others in and around the wreck, submerged in 47 metres of water less than a kilometre from the shore of the southern island of Lampedusa.
Now the plight of the survivors of one of the worst disasters in Europe's immigration crisis is putting a spotlight on the shortcomings of the migrant centres, and on the laws that are aimed at keeping them away.
"We have the duty to tell the Italian government and the EU that their structures and policies are not only inadequate, but they're criminal," said Rosario Crocetta, Sicily's regional governor, after visiting Lampedusa's immigration centre with the mayor and a group of lawmakers.
The centre, which is equipped to house 250 people, is now packed with more than 1,000.
Reporters and TV cameras are kept out, but clearly seen through the front gate were families with children camping under shade trees, with foam mattresses for beds and clothing drying on lines stretched between the trunks.
"The overcrowding is inhuman," said Gea Planeta Schiro, with the Civic Choice party. "More than 100 woman are using one bathroom, and they have no soap to wash their clothes."
The lawmakers said they spoke to a group of the survivors of Thursday's shipwreck, and were told that each migrant paid thousands of dollars to smugglers（2） first to cross the Sahara desert, and then to buy passage across the Mediterranean.
Lampedusa, a tiny fishing and tourist island that is only about 70 miles from Tunisia and 170 miles from Libya, has borne the brunt（3） of a crisis which over the years has seen tens of thousands of migrants arrive in rickety（4） and unsafe vessels.
Abdul, a 16-year-old Somali boy wearing shorts and a red T-shirt, said his father paid a total of $7,500 to smugglers to get him to Lampedusa, where he arrived on a boat 12 days ago - about six months after leaving Mogadishu.
Human trafficking is a lucrative business because of the strict laws aimed at keeping unwanted immigrants out of more wealthy countries.
Abdul's father paid $1,300 to get him across the Sahara, $300 to get him out of a Libyan prison, $800 for each boat crossing, of which he bought four because he was turned back three times by Libyan police, who shot at him, he said.
"I want to study. I want a future," he said through the bars of the immigration centre gate.
The survivors of the shipwreck could be prosecuted, fined 5,000 euros and sent home if they are not given political asylum（5）, Agrigento prosecutor Ignazio Fonzo said.
"There have been some convictions in the past, and of course they can't pay the fine. They don't have any money," he said.
"This shows that one of next things that Italy's parliament must do is abolish the measure that makes immigration a crime," Mario Marazzitti, a lawmaker for the Civic Choice party said.
The disaster has renewed pressure from Italy for more help from the EU to combat the decades-old migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
Prime Minister Enrico Letta's centre-left Democratic Party called for an urgent meeting of the European Council to agree on setting up special "humanitarian corridors" to provide protection for migrant boats.（Reuters）