Italian police have said Captain Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, and crew member Mahmud Bikhit, 25, have been charged over estimated deaths of the 820 people off Libya’s coast.
Over 820 people died after Sunday’s tragic incident in which a fishing boat crammed with hundreds of people capsized off Libya’s coast. It has been named as the deadliest migrant tragedy of the Mediterranean so far.
The Tunisian captain and Syrian crew member were among the 27 survivors of the incident and both have been charged with reckless homicide and people trafficking, said Italian Prosecutor Rocco Liguori.
Investigations into the incident have determined that a Portuguese-flagged merchant ship King Jacob struck the overcrowded ship as it tried to help the migrants.
A survivor has told the UN refugee agency that people panicked as the boat was about to collide with the merchant ship and that the captain “wanted to steer the boat but at the same time hide himself among us,” According to the ANSA news agency.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has called on the European Union (EU) “not to be left alone,” and for emergency talks along with several other government leaders regarding the immigration crisis.
This is not the first disaster in the Mediterranean. In 2013 a boat carrying around 250 African migrants capsized near Lampedusa, Italy, resulting in the death of over 200 people.
According to the United Nations refugee agency, including the recent tragedy, at least 1750 migrants have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean since the start of this year.
Australian Prime Minister urges EU to adopt strict border policies
Following the tragic incident Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott was criticized over his controversial remarks urging the EU to adopt strict border protection policies to stop the boats from reaching European shores.
Abbott said “the only way you can stop the deaths is to stop the people smuggling trade. The only way you can stop the deaths is in fact to stop the boats.”
“That’s why it is so urgent that the countries of Europe adopt very strong policies that will end the people smuggling trade across the Mediterranean,” he added.
The Australian government has faced its own migrant debate after it confirmed that it had turned back 429 migrants in 15 vessels and forced them to go back to the countries they had fled from since the government enacted its Operation Sovereign Borders (OSB).
The UN refugee agency has warned Australia over its policy towards refugees, claiming that its actions could be breaking international law.