Monday was a dark day for migrants in the Mediterranean. As the search continued for survivors of the weekend’s capsizing off the coast of Libya – from which 800 have been confirmed dead – three separate vessels got into trouble.
Coast guard boats spent the day criss-crossing the sea responding to two boats off the coast of Libya, with hundreds aboard each, and a third that had run aground off the island of Rhodes.
Amid what Italian Premier Matteo Renzi called an “escalation in these death voyages” two arrests have been made. The Tunisian captain and a member of the crew from the boat that capsized Sunday have been charged with favouring illegal immigration, and the captain also faces the charge of reckless multiple homicide.
They were arrested aboard the rescue boat that brought 27 survivors from the shipwreck to Sicily, the Associated Press reports.
Their human cargo, according to Carlotta Sami, of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy, included Syrians, Eritreans and Somalians, a number of which were children aged between 10 and 12.
Details of the disaster are beginning to emerge, and Italian prosecutors say that hundreds of migrants were locked below deck unable to escape when the rickety boat capsized off the coast of Libya.
Speaking at a news conference in Catania, Sicily, prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said “a few hundred were forced into the hold and they were locked in and prevented from coming out.” He said hundreds more were locked on a second level of the boat, which also had hundreds of migrants squeezed into its upper deck.
The sheer scale of this week’s events, with as many as 1,300 deaths in the past week alone, have seen onlookers rush to contextualise the numbers and have prompted what many see as overdue action from the EU.
— Amnesty UK (@AmnestyUK) April 20, 2015
Joseph Muscat, the Maltese prime minister, called the latest tragedy “a game-changer,” and said that “if Europe doesn’t work together, history will judge it very badly.”
The European Union foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini, said this weekend’s appalling human toll — which, if verified, would be the deadliest migrant tragedy ever — had “finally” fully awakened the European Union to the evils of human trafficking.
He said that a 10-point package to deal with the crisis that was set out during talks in Luxembourg Monday was a “strong reaction from the EU to the tragedies” and “shows a new sense of urgency and political will.”
“We are developing a truly European sense of solidarity in fighting human trafficking – finally so.”
Read more: mashable.com