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Lampedusa Tragedy: Barroso And Letta Heckled
European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso and Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta have been barracked during a visit to Lampedusa where a boat carrying African asylum seekers caught fire and sank, killing up to 350 people.
Residents of the remote Italian island have long complained to the EU that they have been left alone to deal with the thousands of migrants who come ashore each year from Africa and the Middle East.
Both Mr Barroso and Mr Letta were booed and jeered by protesting islanders who shouted "disgrace" and "killers".
"They should be ashamed of themselves. They should solve this humanitarian problem." one protester said.
Another added: "We've been living with this for 20 years. We've had enough of death. These deaths are on the conscience of Italian and EU politicians."
Mr Barroso pledged Italy would receive an additional 30 million euros (£25m) in EU funds to help improve standards at its immigrant holding centres following last Thursday's tragedy.
And Mr Letta said that Italy would hold a state funeral for the migrants who died after their boat capsized.
They visited the airport hangar where the coffins of the dead have been laid out.
"That image of hundreds of coffins will never get out of my mind," said Mr Barroso.
The pair also visited the island's refugee centre which houses around 1,000 migrants, but only has 250 beds.
Some 30,000 migrants have flocked to Italy so far this year. An estimated 17,000 to 20,000 have died while crossing the Mediterranean during the past 20 years on overcrowded fishing boats or rubber dinghies, seeking a better life in Europe.
Eritrea, Somalia and Syria are the main countries of origin and the majority of arrivals are on Lampedusa, Italy's southernmost point which is closer to north Africa than to the Italian mainland.
During Wednesday's visit, Mr Barroso also promised to work "tirelessly" to implement an EU-wide asylum policy and to beef up Frontex - the EU's border patrol agency - to prevent future tragedies.
Meanwhile, Italian authorities have detained a 35-year-old Tunisian man suspected of being the captain of the boat, from which only 155 refugees are believed to have survived.
He faces charges of aiding illegal immigration and multiple counts of homicide.