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It’s not as if Australia has been spared the dozens if not hundreds of refugees trying to reach our shores, that have lost lives. If memories serve me right we even tried to prevent refugees from attending burial services.

Italy has declared a national day of mourning after a boat packed with African migrants caught fire and sank off the island of Lampedusa, killing at least 130 people.

The boat had set sail from Libya, a route thousands of migrants take each year to try and reach the European Union.

Italian interior minister Angelino Alfano says the disaster occurred when the boat’s motor stopped working and the vessel began to take on water.

He says people on board burned a sheet to attract the attention of rescuers, starting a fire on board.

“Once the fire started, there was a concern about the boat sinking and everyone moved to one side, causing the boat to go down,” he told a news conference.

The 20-metre vessel, believed to be carrying around 500 people, sank no more than one kilometre from shore.

Scores of people have been rescued and brought to shore, but so too have many bodies.

Authorities have confirmed the death of at least 93 people, and coast guard divers have counted 40 bodies inside the sunken vessel.

Two pregnant women are reported to be among the victims, as well as three children, while hundreds more remain missing.