The 367 migrants rescued from a boat carrying over 600 on Wednesday have been brought to Palermo along with the 25 bodies so far recovered, three of which are those of children. For the first time, a bunch of white flowers for each of the dead was placed on the quayside as a tribute.
As the survivors speak to police, horrific and distressing accounts of their treatment are emerging and there is no reason to disbelieve them: One woman has said that the boat was so overcrowded that the migrants were clinging to any firm structure they could get close to on the journey and that throughout their ordeal, there were terrible screams from those who had been forced to travel in the hold. The latter, it transpires, were mostly Africans because they had paid less for their journey than others and we have also learnt that passengers were ill-treated and even tortured in various ways according to their nationality and, it seems, the amount of money they had paid.
Other survivors have said that when the boat began to take in water, they were forced to try to empty it out in buckets. When they failed in this impossible task, they tried to get back under cover, out of the burning sun, but were then made to sit on the sealed hatch so that the migrants in the hold could not get out. By the time the migrants on deck saw the rescuers, they were exhausted and thought they were about to die, so is it any wonder they surged towards them?
Many of the survivors have now been sent to centres in other parts of Italy but relatives of the dead have been allowed, upon request, to remain here for the time being.
Five men - the "crew" of the boat - have been arrested on suspicion of people trafficking and charges of homicide have not been ruled out.
There is some resentment here - and it is a viewpoint which I can undesrstand - about the amount of money and resources being poured into the Calais situation, whilst the situation in the Mediterranean is again being largely ignored. From here it appears that two rich EU countries can pool their resources and take action when they want to but are content to let a poorer country shoulder almost all the responsibility for the immense numbers of people trying to cross the Mediterranean.
Leoluca Orlando, the Mayor of Palermo, yesterday repeated his assertion that the EU will one day be found guilty of genocide because of its failure to help migrants in the Mediterranean area and I believe he is right. I also think that, when the whole truth of what these poor souls are fleeing becomes known, it will emerge, as it did with regard to the Holocaust, that there were people in high places who knew but did little or nothing. Will we never learn from history?
Pope Francis, who does not mince his words, today told the Eucharist Youth Movement that to reject migrants fleeing violence and hunger is "an act of war". It is also worth remembering that the EU has an obligation, under international law, to treat migrants with dignity.