Lampedusa: Survivors excluded from Italy memorial

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Media captionThe pain for some was almost too much to bear, as Alan Johnston reports

Survivors of a shipwreck in which hundreds of African migrants died have protested in Italy after being excluded from a ceremony to honour the victims.

Detainees at a holding centre on the island of Lampedusa emerged en masse and staged a sit-in, blocking a road.

A big screen was erected so they could follow proceedings aired on state TV.

The ceremony, held in the Sicilian port of Agrigento, fell short of the full state funeral that the Italian government had originally promised.

People on Lampedusa felt the ceremony should have been held on their island, which is so much closer to the scene of the tragedies, the BBC's Alan Johnston in Rome says.

Lampedusa, which lies 290km (180 miles) off the coast of Africa, is a key destination for migrant vessels bound for Europe.

Some 366 people - mostly Somalis and Eritreans - died when their 20-metre boat caught fire, capsized and sank near the island earlier this month.

The huge loss of life makes it one of the worst in a series of migrant boat tragedies to blight the region.

There were 155 survivors, many of whom had family members among the dead.

Image caption The recent loss of life has led to further calls for EU action

The service was led by religious leaders - Catholic, Coptic and Islamic - and broadcast live to the nation.

Among those gathered at the dockside venue were three government ministers, local officials and military figures.

As the service ended, Italian Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano was heckled by demonstrators urging changes to the law designed to deter illegal immigration.

Some members of Italy's Eritrean community were able to participate in the memorial ceremony.

After it ended, they gathered on the nearby shore to pray in silence; some mourners waded out and dropped wreaths into the water, some lit candles.