Update: Two Suspected Human Traffickers Arrested over Mediterranean Boat Disaster
Italian authorities have arrested two suspected human traffickers thought to have been involved in the case of a migrant vessel that capsized in the Mediterranean on Saturday, killing more than 800 migrants.
The Guardian reports that the men in custody are allegedly the captain, a Tunisian national, and a crew member of the ship, a Syrian national, who now face charges of reckless homicide.
The survivors of the wreck arrived in Catania, Sicily, late last night, at which point the two men were taken into custody. Red Cross tents and other volunteers awaited the other survivors.
Kate Bond, a writer for the UN Refugee Agency, said: "One survivor told UNHCR staff that there were children aboard the boat. So far, none of them have been found, although search-and-rescue operations at the site continue."
The death toll from the incident has risen - it was previously thought that about 700 perished in the disaster, but today the UN Refugee Agency has brought that estimate up to more than 800. Of approximately 850 people on board, only 28 survivors have been found.
Yesterday, during an emergency meeting in Luxembourg, the European Union authorized the use of military action against the network of smugglers in Libya that control human trafficking in the Mediterranean. They released a 10 point action plan laying out how they would achieve this goal.
The proposals include increasing funding to the existing coastguard programs that patrol for migrant vessels, but also several measures to deter the criminals involved in human trafficking – such as destroying their vessels, and stepping up cross-border police to gather intelligence and trace the smugglers’ funds.
However, critics are concerned that migrants fleeing war-torn regions in North Africa and the Middle East have few options but to make dangerous journeys with trafficking gangs.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Italian prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said the lack of resources and instability in Libya make it extremely difficult to “catch any but the smallest fish”. Since the start of 2014, more than 1,000 people have been arrested in Catania on suspicion of involvement in migrant smuggling networks.
Only 100 of these cases have made it to trial, and none of the trials has yet reached a final judgement.