Sunbathers Bask Next To Child Corpses

Shocking photos of sunbathers on an Italian beach soaking up the rays next to a pair of covered child corpses have Italians reeling.

The nonchalant beachgoers carried on Saturday as if nothing were amiss, ignoring that two children from the Roma ethnic group had drowned, ostensibly before their eyes.

The two girls, identified as Cristina Ibramovic, 15, and Viola Ibramovic, 13, were selling trinkets on the Torregaveta beach near Naples, in southern Italy, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

They decided, along with their cousin and a friend, to go for a swim in a stormy sea.

Strong currents swept the girls far from shore and, despite rescue efforts, two of them died, according to witnesses.

Their bodies were carried ashore, laid out on the beach and left in the sun until the emergency services arrived.

"We picked up the bodies amid total indifference," the ambulance driver who went to collect the bodies told La Repubblica.

People were eating lunch only a few feet away from the dead girls.

This incident comes as Italy has recently been criticized for its treatment of the Roma people, a population historically familiar with persecution. They are often referred to as Gypsies

Italy's Interior Minister Roberto Maroni announced plans this month to conduct a census of all Roma living in makeshift camps outside major Italian cities.

The move was widely denounced as racist and discriminatory, most notably by UNICEF, the Council of Europe and the Italian chapter of rights group Amnesty International.

The Italian government argues that it would help the Roma children attend schools and integrate more in society.

Maroni today announced new proposals to grant Italian citizenship to Roma children born in Italy and abandoned by their parents. Maroni was quoted in the Italian newspaper Corriere Della Sera as saying they would be given a name, a surname and the citizenship as part of their human rights.

EveryOne, a group that lobbies for Roma's rights in Italy, described Saturday's events in a statement on its Web site:

"Unreal, cruel scenes, indicative of how racism has transformed the Italian people into [an] inhuman people, educated by propaganda, to consider the Roma people on a level with animals, unworthy of sentiments of pity and pain."

It went as far as to query the sequence of Saturday's events, suggesting that the girls were the victims of foul play.

"There is something strange about the fact that four young girls who are non-swimmers would throw themselves fully clothed into a rough sea (which can't have been that rough, seeing there were many other people, including several children, in the water at the same time). There is something strange about the fact that four young girls would dive into the waves in front of dozens of people, forgetting all about their traditional modesty," according to the EveryOne site.

But the local mayor, Franco Inauzzi, was quoted in the Daily Telegraph, defending the beachgoers.

"From what I heard, everyone tried to help and do what they could," he said. "There was a real effort of solidarity to save these children and, with regard to the fact their bodies were on the beach for an hour, that is a question for the mortuary services.

"I don't think there was any indifference at all from the people on the beach, and if there was, it wasn't due to the fact that the victims were from a different ethnic background."

The Archbishop of Naples, Cardinal Crescenzo Sepe, when he saw the "sad and horrible" scenes, warned on his blog that "to be indifferent should not be human."

Ann Wise contributed to this report.