A court in Agrigento in Sicily, Italy, sentenced a 36 year-old Tunisian man named Khaled Bensalem to jail for 18 years on Wednesday for being responsible for a boat disaster which took place in October 2013, Reuters has reported.
Bensalem - one of the survivors - was accused of causing the deaths of the 366 migrants on board the boat. The passengers of the boat were mostly Eritreans.
The shipwreck occurred in Lampedusa, a southern Italian island, and was one of the worst disasters in the Mediterranean in the last ten years.
Many refugees fleeing poverty and war in Africa have attempted to cross the Mediterranean into Europe in recent years.
A growing anti-immigrant attitude in Europe has led countries such as Hungary to oppose EU plans to redistribute refugees among member states, even though other countries such as France, Germany and Italy support the plans.
Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi told a meeting of EU ministers in Brussels last week “If you do not agree with the figure of 40,000 asylum seekers you do not deserve to call yourself Europeans. If this is your idea of Europe, you can keep it. Either there’s solidarity or don’t waste our time.”
In response to the plans, Director General William Lacy Swing of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said “These initiatives reflect serious and constructive approaches to a challenge which IOM expects to continue.
“We strongly support the EU recommendation to prioritize saving migrant lives at sea by expanding current border patrol operations to the level and scale of the life-saving Mare Nostrum operation, which was phased out last year.”
The Mare Nostrum Operation was a rescue operation launched in October 2013 led by the Italian government which saved the lives of at least 150,000 migrants, mostly from Africa and the Middle East.
Another migrant boat disaster in the Mediterranean in late April this year resulted in the deaths of at least 800 people. The United Nations said the victims were of multiple nationalities from Africa and Asia.
Three times more migrants died in the first half of 2015 than in the same period of 2014.