Churches on the Italian Island of Sicily have hastily replaced pews with beds in a bid to accommodate the stream of migrants fleeing Africa and the Middle East, government centers simply cannot cope.
On Saturday alone over 1,800 people were reportedly rescued and brought to shore.
Father Rosario Francolino, spoke about the local efforts being made amidst this growing crisis:
“We’ve substituted the altar with beds. I think this is the most beautiful mass that this community could celebrate in these days. Palermo’s community is alive to events and showing great interest.”
This Church alone has received 700 migrants since Sunday.
To make the perilous crossing from Africa, people must navigate treacherous waters at the whim of the high seas and human traffickers.
A 20-year-old man from Mali spoke of how his boat filled with water, with tragic consequences:
“My cousin didn’t know how to swim, I tried to save him but he didn’t know how to swim. He couldn’t and he died”
The death of 300 people near Lampedusa last October prompted the government to increase coastguard patrols.
But critics now say the move has only spurred on human traffickers. Already this year 50,000 Migrants have been brought to shore, more than 2013’s total.
Italian ministers stress the EU must share some of the burden.