CATANIA, Italy: Italian police have arrested two suspected people traffickers among the survivors of the migrant boat that capsized off Libya on Sunday, as the UN said 800 people were killed in the Mediterranean’s worst migrant disaster.
They said they had detained a Tunisian man believed to be the captain of the vessel and a Syrian allegedly a member of the ship’s crew, taken from a group of 27 haggard survivors who arrived in the Sicilian port of Catania on Monday evening. Both face charges of people trafficking.
Under-fire EU ministers meanwhile agreed on a 10-point plan to double the resources available to the current EU border surveillance mission Triton, as the UN’s refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration recounted what those onboard had witnessed.
“We can say that 800 are dead,” said Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy on Tuesday, citing the survivors’ accounts of the deadly crossing.
Those who escaped with their lives described to officials the moment the 20-meter (70-foot) trawler carrying them capsized after a Portuguese merchant ship approached the vessel, causing a stampede.
“There were a little over 800 people on board, including children aged between 10 and 12. There were Syrians, about 150 Eritreans, Somalians… They had left Tripoli at about 8 a.m. on Saturday,” Sami said.
The survivors hailed from Mali, Gambia, Senegal, Somalia, Eritrea and Bangladesh, she added, and all had been taken to nearby holding centers.
One other survivor was taken to hospital in Catania, on Sicily’s east coast.