A Nigerian migrant's account of how his two children were thrown overboard after dying of thirst on their voyage to Italy has led some questions over the national emergency Italy declared.
The father and 74 other migrants were rescued on Saturday after setting sail from Libya a week ago. They were picked up by the Italian coastguard a day after the government declared a state of emergency for illegal immigration.
"The night we left Libya, the youngest one ... died in my arms and we were forced to throw him in the sea," the 30-year- old Nigerian said in comments carried in newspapers on Sunday.
A day later, his three-year-old daughter also died.
"She wanted water and something to eat. She suffered a lot, resisted a bit longer but didn't make it in the end," he said.
Thousands of illegal African migrants arrive in Italy in flimsy boats each summer. A rise in crime blamed to the migrants has made them a hot political issue.
Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's right-wing government declared a national emergency on Friday but the opposition and other critics accuse it of exaggerating the situation.
"Those two children had the right to live," La Repubblica columnist Adriano Prosperi wrote. "Instead, they died in the middle of the sea, off the coast of a country that has just discovered it is in a state of emergency. A country that feels threatened by them."
Both opposition and ruling coalition lawmakers seized on the tragedy to support arguments on how to face the problem.
"The death of the children ... fills us with infinite pain and makes us understand what the real emergency is," leftist lawmaker Marco Minniti said.
But conservative lawmaker Maurizio Gasparri said it showed the need for tighter controls to prevent such tragedies.
"Real racism is being lax on mass arrivals and the death of many, including children," said Gasparri. "The government is taking responsibility for putting a brake on the uncontrollable and unmanageable influx of migrants."
Last Mod: 28 Temmuz 2008, 12:12