Update as of 3:12 a.m. EDT: The captain of the boat that capsized Sunday off the Libyan coast in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 800 migrants heading to Europe, has been charged with reckless multiple homicide, BBC reported, citing Italian officials. The captain, a Tunisian national, and a crew member, who were among those rescued by European authorities, has also been charged with favoring illegal immigration, the report added.
Following the latest migrants deaths in one of the deadliest accidents in the region, the European Union has stepped up measures to clamp down on human trafficking, including an increase in search-and-rescue operations, and a campaign to destroy traffickers' boats, BBC reported.
Update as of 12:45 a.m. EDT: The United Nations has put the number of dead in Sunday's migrant ship accident in the Mediterranean Sea at 800, Agence France-Presse reported Tuesday.
Two individuals have been arrested on charges of human trafficking in the fatal capsizing of a ship loaded with migrants in the Mediterranean. An Italian prosecutor identified the two as a Tunisian captain and a Syrian member of the crew, the Los Angeles Times reported. They were among the 28 survivors of the wreck that European officials worry may have killed as many as 700 Asian and African migrants and refugees.
Unlike the survivors, most of the dead were women and children who were locked in the hold of the ship, prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said.
The growing stream of migrants crossing the Mediterranean to seek refuge in Europe has created ahumanitarian crisis, with about 17 times as many migrants dying this year from January through April than during the same period last year. As of last week, the International Organization for Migration estimated 900 migrants had died so far this year.
Refugees escaping ongoing conflicts in Syria and Libya have been joined by migrants from as far away as Bangladesh, Senegal and Gambia. Last year Italian naval ships rescued around 130,000 people. European authorities answered two more distress calls Monday from boats ferrying a combined 300 migrants.
The surge in migrants crossing to Europe has also created a political crisis, particularly for countries like Greece and Italy, which receive the lion’s share of migrants. Immigrants’ rights advocates and humanitarian groups have accused European authorities of doing too little to protect against catastrophes like Sunday’s.
Officials have emphasized the unprecedented situation requires collective action. “The main issue here is to build together a common sense of European responsibility on what is happening in the Mediterranean,” said Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s top foreign affairs representative.