by Marzia De Giuli
ROME, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- The toll of ascertained deaths in the migrant shipwreck near the Italian island of Lampedusa rose to 302 on Wednesday, while European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso was visiting the place where the disaster claimed hundreds of lives last week.
Divers recovered another bodies from under the boat that caught fire and sank last week while carrying 518 people, mostly Eritreans and Somalis, meaning that 61 people are still missing. Only 155 survived.
So far the victims included 83 woman and nine children, in a row of coffins lined up for burial that Barroso said were "shocking" and "unforgettable."
The EC president told a joint press conference with Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta and other authorities that the emergency of migrants dying in the Mediterranean Sea must be urgently addressed at the European level.
"Europe is with the people of Lampedusa. The problem of one of our countries, such as Italy, must be perceived as a problem for the whole of Europe," he said.
"It is necessary to share the borders of the member states and the burden of the initiatives," he added.
Barroso then announced that the European Union (EU) would provide to Italy an additional 30 million euros (about 40 million U.S. dollars) within the end of 2013 to deal with the thousands of African asylum-seekers arriving every year, and accelerate efforts to help with the situation in the Mediterranean.
The Italian authorities have repeatedly called on the EU to enhance efforts to help Mediterranean members deal with the migrant issue, given that the current refugee rules require applicants to lodge their asylum claim in the first European country they enter.
According to the United Nation (UN) refugee agency UNHCR, in the first nine months of 2013 more than 30,000 African migrants have landed on Italian shores, that they see as the first place of European arrival.
The overcrowded conditions of Lampedusa's migrant centre, whose capacity has been largely exceeded with dozens of people forced to sleep outside as migrant boats continue to reach the island, prompted migrants to stage a protest earlier this week.
Letta said the migrant emergency will be on the agenda at the next European Council scheduled for Oct. 24-25, and "2014 will be the year of the turning point."
He also promised that his left-right government would intervene on the overcrowded situation and also could consider changing a controversial law that makes being an undocumented migrant a criminal offense.
Later on Wednesday, he unveiled a decree law, based on the EU Directive 51, which grants longer-term residency permits in Europe to asylum seekers such as the shipwreck's survivors, who had been facing formal investigation as undocumented migrants.