If you travel through the Merthyr Vale in Wales and happen to glance up at a certain point, a sad sight awaits you, for you will see rows of pristine white, stone arches, each of which guards an immaculately tended grave. These are the graves of the majority of the victims of the Aberfan Disaster of 1966, an event which no one living in Wales at the time will ever forget, just as Sicilians will never forget the migrant tragedies of 3rd and 11th October of this year.
I was reminded of that faraway hillside this morning when I saw pictures in the Italian press of the hastily but carefully constructed stone chapels that now grace a hillside in Agrigento and contain the bodies of many of the lost migrants. Each chapel in the Piano Gatto Cemetery contains the bodies of up to 14 victims of the disasters and on the exterior walls the deceased are identified by numbers. This is not only because many could not be identified but has also been done to protect some of the families of the deceased from possible repercussions in their countries of origin. The Mayor and Vicar general of the Archdiocese of Agrigento brought wreaths for each chapel. The cemetery superintendent told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that he cannot erase from his mind the image of so many coffins arriving by lorry last Sunday.
Migrant burials have also taken place in other cemetries in Agrigento Province and in all cases the mayors of the towns involved have offered their full cooperation. In at least two of the cemeteries, interfaith funerals have taken place. In an extraordinary humanitarian gesture, two families offered to have three of the migrants - among them a mother and baby - buried in their own family tombs in Agrigento city's Bonamorone Cemetery and this has now happened.
A state memorial service for all the migrants will take place on the San Leone jetty in Agrigento at 4pm on Monday, in the presence of government representatives. The Mayor of Lampedusa, Giusi Nicolini, is understandably upset about this, as she will be unable to attend herself due to a pre-scheduled meeting with President Napolitano and because she feels that the citizens of Lampedusa have a right to be involved in this service.
Meanwhile, some of the relatives of victims of the Sampieri tragedy of 30th September have been asking for repatriation of the bodies. They say that the Eritrean government is willing to take responsibility for such a transfer and that they do not understand why the Italian government will not give permission for it to go ahead.
Let us hope that the migrants buried in Agrigento Province find, in death, the serenity that was so cruelly denied them in life and, like the lost of Aberfan, may they sleep in peace.