LAMPEDUSA, Italy — The coffins of African migrants killed in a shipwreck off the Italian island of Lampedusa were lined up in long rows inside an airport hangar where survivors of the tragedy paid their respects Saturday. All of the caskets had a single white rose on top except for the four of the youngest victims, which had stuffed animals.
The 111 coffins were numbered — a teddy bear wearing a smile and a blue shirt with a heart was placed above casket No. 92.
The ceremony took place hours after Italian fishermen threw a bouquet of yellow flowers near the exact spot where the migrant boat sank, honking their foghorns in tribute to the dead and up to 250 migrants who might still be missing.
The search to recover more bodies, meanwhile, was called off for a second day because of choppy waters and strong currents.
A parliamentary delegation visited the survivors amid reports that a boat might have violated the “law of the sea” by failing to help the migrant ship packed with 500 migrants, nearly all from Eritrea, about 650 yards from shore.
“To come to rescue is a duty. Not to come to rescue is a crime,” Laura Boldrini, the Italian house speaker who previously and for many years was the U.N. Refugee Agency spokeswoman in Italy told reporters in Lampedusa after visiting the survivors.
The 65-foot migrant boat sank Thursday after a fire was set onboard to attract attention of any passing boats or people on shore when they ran into trouble. They had traveled for two full days and thought they had reached safety when they saw the lights of Lampedusa.
Instead, at least 111 drowned and 155 survived, some of whom were in the water for three hours, clinging to anything buoyant — even empty water bottles.
Boat captains in Italian waters have been dissuaded in the past from helping migrants in distress because they fear prosecution under an Italian law aimed at curbing illegal migration. But Boldrini said the law of the sea requires assistance to be given to anyone in need.
More than 20 survivors attended a private ceremony in a hangar where caskets containing the bodies of those recovered were prepared.
The surviving migrants asked the lawmakers to be allowed to identify the deceased, to repatriate their remains to Eritrea and to be moved to centers away from Lampedusa as soon as possible, Boldrini said.