Prosecutors said Tuesday they have arrested the Tunisian captain and a Syrian crew member of a boat that capsized off the coast of Libya with hundreds of people aboard in what may be the deadliest migrant tragedy ever.
Assistant Prosecutor Rocco Liguori said the two men were charged with favouring illegal immigration and that the captain was also charged with reckless multiple homicide in relation to the sinking. Reuters news agency reported that the crew member was the first mate of the ship.
The captain and crew member were arrested aboard the rescue boat that brought 27 survivors from the shipwreck, which may have killed as many as 900 people, to Sicily.
Even as the search continued for victims of the weekend disaster, coast guard ships rushed to respond to new distress calls on the high seas — two off Libya and a third boat that ran aground near Greece.
‘Unscrupulous men’ who trade human lives
European leaders struggled Monday for an adequate response in the face of unremitting migrant flows and continued instability in Libya that has given free rein to human traffickers.
Decrying what he called an “escalation in these death voyages,” Italian Premier Matteo Renzi urged Europe to put the focus on preventing more boats from leaving Libya, the source of 90 per cent of migrant traffic to Italy.