Italy arrests Tunisian captain for 'multiple manslaughter' over migrant boat disaster

  • Only 28 people survived the disaster off the coast of Libya with some 900 others perishing when boat capsized
  • Among them was the boat's Tunisian captain, who is charged with manslaughter, and a Syrian crew member
  • They were both arrested as they stepped onto European soil in Catania with other survivors late on Monday night
  • The EU vowed to 'capture and destroy' human traffickers' boats under mounting pressure to solve crisis
  • Three other people died on Greek island of Rhodes when their boat ran aground in day of horror on Europe's seas  

By Nick Fagge and Hannah Roberts In Sicily and Sam Greenhill for the Daily Mail and Simon Tomlinson and John Hall and Jennifer Smith for MailOnline

Published: 07:30 GMT, 20 April 2015 | Updated: 07:51 GMT, 21 April 2015

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Two survivors of the Mediterranean migrant tragedy were arrested as they stepped onto Sicilian soil last night, some 24 hours after their boat capsized, killing around 900 people in one of the worst maritime tragedies in recent history.

One is the boat's Tunisian captain, the other his Syrian crew member. Both were questioned on the long journey from Libya to Sicily last night before being taken into custody and charged with 'favouring illegal immigration'. The captain was additionally charged with multiple manslaughter.

Twenty-six others stepped off the Italian coastguard's ship to applause and shouts of 'welcome', their faces heavy with the horror of what had got them there as the crowd waved flowers for the dead.

Earlier survivors told of how women and children died 'like rats in a cage' after being locked into the boat's hold by callous traffickers in Libya. Some resorted to clinging to their floating corpses until Italian and Maltese coastguards came to rescue them in the dead of the night. 

Elsewhere three people died when a rickety wooden boat ran aground on the Greek island of Rhodes. Among them was a tiny child whose lifeless body was carried to the shore by a local man who had waded in to to try to save him.

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An unknown survivor of the Mediterranean migrant tragedy is wheeled off an Italian coastguard ship at Catania last night. Among the 28 who reached Italy were the ship's Tunisian captain - who is charged with multiple manslaughter - and a Syrian crew member

An unknown survivor of the Mediterranean migrant tragedy is wheeled off an Italian coastguard ship at Catania last night. Among the 28 who reached Italy were the ship's Tunisian captain - who is charged with multiple manslaughter - and a Syrian crew member

One of the surviving migrants has his temperature taken on board the Italian ship as it prepares to dock in Catania at around midnight. Twenty-eight people survived the tragedy with around 900 thought to have perished 

One of the surviving migrants has his temperature taken on board the Italian ship as it prepares to dock in Catania at around midnight. Twenty-eight people survived the tragedy with around 900 thought to have perished 

The male survivors stand on the ship's deck as it approaches Catania, waiting to set foot on European soil. Two people have been arrested for the deaths of the other passengers 

The male survivors stand on the ship's deck as it approaches Catania, waiting to set foot on European soil. Two people have been arrested for the deaths of the other passengers 

Italian Minister Graziano Delrio shakes hands with one of the migrants as the ship docks at Catania in Sicily late on Monday night 

Italian Minister Graziano Delrio shakes hands with one of the migrants as the ship docks at Catania in Sicily late on Monday night 

Rescue workers wore protective suits to shuttle the migrants from their sunken Libyan ship to Italy. Earlier a Bangladeshi survivor told of how women and children had been locked in the boat's hold 

Rescue workers wore protective suits to shuttle the migrants from their sunken Libyan ship to Italy. Earlier a Bangladeshi survivor told of how women and children had been locked in the boat's hold 

EU bosses have vowed to 'capture and destroy' those responsible for migrant boats such as the one from which the survivors (pictured above) escaped 

EU bosses have vowed to 'capture and destroy' those responsible for migrant boats such as the one from which the survivors (pictured above) escaped 

Humanitarian groups are urging for drastic action to be taken to stop further tragedies while EU member countries have focused the blame for the disasters on human traffickers. The men above, who survived the Libyan wreckage, will be taken to a migrant reception centre 

Humanitarian groups are urging for drastic action to be taken to stop further tragedies while EU member countries have focused the blame for the disasters on human traffickers. The men above, who survived the Libyan wreckage, will be taken to a migrant reception centre 

Dressed in hoodies, jackets and trainers, the survivors of the disaster make their way onto dry land after seeing 900 passengers die at sea 

Dressed in hoodies, jackets and trainers, the survivors of the disaster make their way onto dry land after seeing 900 passengers die at sea 

One of the group managed a smile as he approached the crowds in Catania on the coast of Sicily last night some 24 hours after the boat capsized 

One of the group managed a smile as he approached the crowds in Catania on the coast of Sicily last night some 24 hours after the boat capsized 

A barefoot migrant steps off of the boat at Catania with a scrum of health workers and officials waiting on dry land

A barefoot migrant steps off of the boat at Catania with a scrum of health workers and officials waiting on dry land

Another of the survivors, a young man, bows his head as he makes the short walk from the boat's deck to the port where hundreds had gathered

Another of the survivors, a young man, bows his head as he makes the short walk from the boat's deck to the port where hundreds had gathered

Italian Minister Graziano Delrio boards the ship where two of the survivors were arrested. Later he said Italy had given a 'strong signal' to human traffickers

Italian Minister Graziano Delrio boards the ship where two of the survivors were arrested. Later he said Italy had given a 'strong signal' to human traffickers

In the wake of the tragedies the EU has vowed to 'capture and destroy' smuggler boats caught trying to push desperate migrants onto European shores. 

An emergency summit has been called to take place on Thursday, with David Cameron among those scheduled to attend. There, experts will present a 10 point plan to persecute the culprits.  

A proposal to double spending on sea patrol off Europe's south border will also be heard with the entire strategy based on its anti-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia. 

Last night border chiefs warned as many as one million migrants are waiting to set sail off the coast of Libya, with the need for drastic action to address the crisis greater than ever before. 

EU border agency chief Fabrice Leggeri warned that up to one million migrants could reach Europe amid collapsing security in the northern African country.

As the survivors of the capsized boat arrived in Catania last night, authorities revealed two of the group had been arrested and charged over the deaths of its hundreds of dead passengers.

They were identified by other survivors including a Bangladeshi man who had earlier been airlifted to hospital.  

Prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said of the men: 'They will be charged with multiple manslaughter, ship wreck and human trafficking.' 

Meanwhile Italian minister Graziano Delrio, who greeted the other survivors off the ship, warned: 'Italy has given a strong signal to human traffickers.' 

On Tuesday morning it emerged some of those on board were unaccompanied teenagers including 16 and 17-year-olds from Somalia and two 17-year-olds from Bangladesh. 

They were said to be 'exhausted, fragile and in need of psychological support' but 'very happy' to have reached Europe.   

Earlier the Maltese Prime Minister declared a crisis, calling for EU countries to reinstate rescue operations. He warned: ‘A time will come when Europe will be judged harshly for its inaction when it turned a blind eye to genocide. 

'We have what is fast becoming a failed state on our doorsteps and criminal gangs are enjoying a heyday.' 

UP TO 1,000 FEARED DEAD AFTER WEEKEND OF WORST MARITIME DISASTERS FOR DECADES

Sunday morning: Italian coastguard responds to migrant ship after it capsizes off the coast of Libya with 700 passengers unaccounted for 

Sunday afternoon: Passengers accounts of the ship say as many as 950 people may have been on board with 300 locked in the hull. 

Another boat is rescued off Sicily carrying 100 Syrian refugees. They are all brought to safety 

Monday morning: A boat runs aground on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes killing a man, woman and child 

Monday afternoon: Italian and Milanese coastguards respond to two distress calls off the coast of Libya from boats thought to be carrying up to 400 people. 

EU heads of state call for urgent action to ease the migrant crisis with an emergency summit called for later in the week 

Monday at midnight: The surviving passengers of the Libyan boat arrive in Catania, Sicily. Among them is the crew's Tunisian captain and his Syrian crew member. 

Both were arrested and charged with 'favouring illegal immigration'. 

The captain was additionally charged with multiple manslaughter. 

He estimated smugglers behind the doomed voyage from Libya to Europe would have made between 1million and 5million euros from selling desperate refugees spaces on the boat.

Heartbreaking scenes were seen elsewhere yesterday as local men on the Greek island of Rhodes waded into the surf to save migrants on a rickety wooden boat that had run aground. 

Three people died in the tragedy, among them a tiny boy whose body was seen being carried to land on a white paddle boat. Later survivors told Sky News their captain had simply 'run away' when he lost control of the boat. 

The day before a separate boat, thought to have been carrying around 100 Syrian refugees, was rescued off the coast of Sicily while on Monday the Italian coastguard received an additional two distress signals from boats in Libya. 

David Cameron called the events 'a very dark day for Europe', adding: 'We should put the blame squarely with the criminal human traffickers who are the ones managing, promoting and selling this trade in human life. 

'We must use all the resources we have including Britain's aid budget, which can play a role in trying to stabilise countries and trying to stop people from trafficking,' he added.

With less than two weeks before the UK's General Election the Prime Minister will take a break from the campaign trail to attend Thursday's summit. 

His views were earlier echoed by the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who said: 'We came together today urgently to look at what Europe's response should be to the tragic events'

While other leaders focused blame on smugglers human rights activists said the responsibility lay with governments who should allow more people into their countries. 

Kate Allen of Amnesty said the death toll was 'the equivalent of five passenger planes full of people drowning in the last week alone.'

'If they had been holidaymakers, instead of migrants, imagine the response. The floating bodies of these desperate fathers, mothers and children are Europe's shame,' she said. 

The toll has refocused attention on demands for a more co-ordinated European response to what Italian premier Matteo Renzi said had become 'a plague in our continent' and the new 'slave trade'. 

Two other distress calls were made on Monday off the coast of Libya with one passenger reportedly claiming 20 people had died on board a boat of 150. Another vessel, carrying 300, was also said to have been in trouble. 

Italian officials yesterday said it was 'too soon to talk about a shipwreck.'   

But Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said the distress calls were further proof that human smuggling is intensifying around Europe.

A woman is laid to the ground after being rescued by Greek men as she tried to reach Europe aboard a wooden boat which ran aground on the island of Rhodes, killing three people 

A woman is laid to the ground after being rescued by Greek men as she tried to reach Europe aboard a wooden boat which ran aground on the island of Rhodes, killing three people 

Three people died after a boat carrying dozens of migrants ran aground on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes. Beach-goers were among the first to come to survivors' rescue as emergency services off the coast of Libya continued to survey the horror of an earlier disaster

Three people died after a boat carrying dozens of migrants ran aground on the Greek holiday island of Rhodes. Beach-goers were among the first to come to survivors' rescue as emergency services off the coast of Libya continued to survey the horror of an earlier disaster

A man carries the body of a dead child onto the Greek island of Rhodes after a wooden sailing boat carrying dozens of people ran aground, killing at least three people in one of a number of tragedies involving migrant vessels over the last two days

A man carries the body of a dead child onto the Greek island of Rhodes after a wooden sailing boat carrying dozens of people ran aground, killing at least three people in one of a number of tragedies involving migrant vessels over the last two days

Video footage shows a large, wooden double-masted boat with people packed on board, just metres away from the Greek island of Rhodes in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Around 1,000 people are thought to have died in several migrant boat disasters in just 24 hours

Video footage shows a large, wooden double-masted boat with people packed on board, just metres away from the Greek island of Rhodes in the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Around 1,000 people are thought to have died in several migrant boat disasters in just 24 hours

A woman appears to collapse with exhaustion in her rescuers arms after being plucked from the Mediterranean Sea in Rhodes

A woman appears to collapse with exhaustion in her rescuers arms after being plucked from the Mediterranean Sea in Rhodes

Three people were killed in the accident in Greece on Monday morning. Their deaths are among hundreds feared over the past 24 hours

Three people were killed in the accident in Greece on Monday morning. Their deaths are among hundreds feared over the past 24 hours

In Valletta, Malta,  rescue workers are forced to stop to drop off the corpses of dozens of people they plucked from the water around a capsized boat in Libya. Hundreds more had sunk to the bottom while survivors clambered aboard rescue ships to be taken to Italy 

In Valletta, Malta,  rescue workers are forced to stop to drop off the corpses of dozens of people they plucked from the water around a capsized boat in Libya. Hundreds more had sunk to the bottom while survivors clambered aboard rescue ships to be taken to Italy 

Of the 950 people on board the ship only 28 survived. Survivors told of how they clung to floating corpses to stay alive. Above, workers on the Italian coastguard ship deposit the body of one migrant who did not make the journey in Valletta, Malta 

Of the 950 people on board the ship only 28 survived. Survivors told of how they clung to floating corpses to stay alive. Above, workers on the Italian coastguard ship deposit the body of one migrant who did not make the journey in Valletta, Malta 

Humanitarians are calling for European heads of state to abandon usual protocols in order to solve the crisis. 

On Monday evening the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said: 'We understand that EU member states have other preoccupations, but right now they have to give priority to humanitarian concerns.' 

If the latest deaths are confirmed, the number of people who have died trying to reach Europe for a better life will have topped 1,650 so far this year - more than 30 times higher than the same period last year.  

HOW ISIS HAS THREATENED TO SEND 500,000 MIGRANTS TO EUROPE AS A 'PSYCHOLOGICAL WEAPON' 

The Islamic State has threatened to send wave of 500,000 migrants to Europe in a chilling echo of Colonel Gaddafi's prophecy that the Mediterranean 'will become a sea of chaos' if he was ousted.

Transcripts of telephone intercepts published in Italy earlier this year claimed to provide evidence that ISIS to use the wave of migrants as a 'psychological weapon' against the West if there is military intervention against them in the north African country.

Authorities fear that if numbers on this scale arrived, European cities could witness riots.

The spread of militancy across Libya was predicted by Gaddafi during his last interview in March 2011.

He was then ousted and killed just five months later when the Arab Spring uprising sparked a civil war in Libya. 

Italian media said a 32-year-old Bangladeshi brought by helicopter to hospital in Sicily told police there had been 950 passengers on the boat, which sank when people on board rushed to one side to attract attention from a passing merchant ship. 

'There were also 200 women and 50 children with us. Many were shut in the hold. They died like rats in a cage,' he was reported as saying by La Sicilia. 

He also told La Repubblica: 'Me and others survived because we were on the deck, others drowned and many others were prisoners in the hold of the boat because the traffickers closed the portholes to stop them from coming out and they have finished at the bottom of the sea.'  

He has been interviewed by prosecutors and is currently being treated in a hospital.

Vito Margiotta, a fishing boat captain who searched for survivors, said: ‘It was like a scene from hell. There were bits of debris everywhere. We could see people in the water but unfortunately none of them were still alive.’ 

Italian authorities are now investigating whether the aforementioned merchant ship collided with the fishing boat. 

Survivors have also told of how they clung to their comrades' corpses as night fell in the dark waters. 

'We held onto the dead so we wouldn't sink to the bottom,' said one pair, found among the dead when rescuers arrived at the boat late last night. 

They were saved when the coastguard heard their tired screams. 

'While we searched through the sea filled with corpses we found two people alive among the dead,’ one responder said. 

‘They were weary and tired and shouted with their last strength when they heard the noise of the engine.

‘Thankfully we were able to locate them and save them otherwise would not have lasted much longer.

‘We are investigating whether there was a collision or if on seeing the ship the migrants moved causing the overcrowded boat to capsize,' said Catania prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said.  

Francesco Gallo, an officer on board the Guardia Finanza police boat Monte Sperone, told of the harrowing moment he picked up the lifeless body of a small boy. 

He told Corriere della Sera: 'We approached in the rubber dinghy and in my heart I prayed that he was alive, but the hope died soon after.

'He was a little black boy. He would have been about ten. I held him in my arms as if he were my own son.

'We are afraid to think about what we will find underneath us.'

The infra-red camera shows rescuers trying to locate survivors in the water. It is thought the boat, heading towards Malta, capsized when passengers moved to one side of the vessel which lead it to overturn

The infra-red camera shows rescuers trying to locate survivors in the water. It is thought the boat, heading towards Malta, capsized when passengers moved to one side of the vessel which lead it to overturn

The Italian Coast Guard (pictured) coordinated the rescue operation,  involving dozens of navy and merchant vessels from Italy and Malta. Just 28 people saved were saved on Sunday by rescuers

The Italian Coast Guard (pictured) coordinated the rescue operation, involving dozens of navy and merchant vessels from Italy and Malta. Just 28 people saved were saved on Sunday by rescuers

The ship's captain Paolo Zottola said his team would not stop until they have found everyone - dead or alive.

He said: 'It's a hard job, our job, but we have to do it. Unfortunately we can't work miracles. But you never get used to the pain.'

He added: 'With the water temperature so cold at midnight they wouldn't have survived more than half and hour'. 

Meanwhile, about 100 migrants rescued by a different merchant vessel in a separate operation were being brought to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo late Sunday night, authorities said. 

The tragedy also comes just days after another shipwreck in the area claimed 400 lives. 

It is thought both boats capsized after those on board rushed to one side to signal to passing merchant ships. 

Mr Muscat said the incident was further evidence that Italy and Malta need more support in dealing with the migrant crisis.

'A time will come when Europe will be judged harshly for its inaction as it was judged when it had turned a blind eye to genocide', he said.

'They are literally trying to find people alive among the dead floating in the water. This could possibly be the biggest tragedy to have ever taken place in the Mediterranean.' 

A rescuer said one of their first discoveries was the body of a boy, no older than 15, who was discovered face down in a pool of oil.

'The boy was one of the first that we recovered, face down in a pool of oil', they said on Sunday.

'We have not found anything since 10am this morning. There's only oil and debris.' 

Pope Francis held a moment of prayer for the victims. He said: 'I express my deepest pain in the face of the tragedy. I appeal to the international community to act quickly and decisively to avoid repeating similar tragedies. 

'They are men and women like us, our brothers who search for a better life, persecuted, injured, exploited, victims of war, searching for a better life, searching for happiness.'  

The UN has now called for EU countries to do more, with refugee agency UNHCR spokesman Carlotta Sami urging the creation of a European version of the Mare Nostrum search and rescue mission. 

She said: 'We need a European Mare Nostrum to combat the tragedies of the immigrants in the sea. We have asked for one for more than a year and we have not had an answer.

'If the numbers of the tragedy are confirmed the total number of people who have died in the Mediterranean in the last ten days will be more than 1,000.'

Relief and despair: Rescuers recovered 24 bodies from the sea following the disaster, which took place off Libyan waters, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, shortly after midnight on Sunday

Relief and despair: Rescuers recovered 24 bodies from the sea following the disaster, which took place off Libyan waters, south of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa, shortly after midnight on Sunday

Traumatised: Migrant survivors lie on the deck of Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour in Malta

Traumatised: Migrant survivors lie on the deck of Italian coastguard ship Bruno Gregoretti in Senglea, in Valletta's Grand Harbour in Malta

CHRISTIANS BUTCHERED BY ISIS ON SHORES OF LIBYA MAY HAVE ALSO BEEN TRYING TO REACH EUROPE

Ethiopian officials have revealed that the 30 Christians filmed being beheaded and shot by Islamic State militants in Libya are likely to have been desperate migrants trying to reach Europe.

The 29-minute video released yesterday is titled 'Until It Came To Them - Clear Evidence', and shows dozens of militants butchering two separate groups of men in the north African country.

Now the Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein said officials are in contact with their embassy in Cairo to establish the authenticity of the video and to work out whether, as suspected, the victims were only in Libya in the hope of boarding a boat bound for Europe.

The news comes just hours after more than 900 migrants are feared to have died when the fishing boat they were travelling in overturned in the Mediterranean Sea shortly after leaving Libya in one of the worst maritime disasters since the end of World War Two.

Speaking of his concerns that the 30 brutally murdered Christians were migrants bound for Europe, Mr Hussein said: 'If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe through the dangerous route.'

Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church's Patriarchate Office, said he also believed the victims were probably migrants.

'I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable,' he said.

'This is outrageous. No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion,' he added.

Ethiopia's options to retaliate remain slim, given its distance from Libya.

However, Ethiopian Ambassador to Egypt Mohammed Edrees said his country could partner with Cairo to strike the militants.

'That could be an option,' Mr Edrees. 'We will see and explore what is possible to deal with group.'

Desperate: An Ethiopian government spokesman said officials are in contact with their embassy in Cairo to establish the authenticity of the video and to work out whether, as suspected, the victims (pictured) were only in Libya in the hope of boarding a boat bound for Europe

Desperate: An Ethiopian government spokesman said officials are in contact with their embassy in Cairo to establish the authenticity of the video and to work out whether, as suspected, the victims (pictured) were only in Libya in the hope of boarding a boat bound for Europe

'Today's is a tragedy of enormous proportions, a catastrophe on a scale never seen before in the Mediterranean which confirms the necessity of a European intervention to put in place adequate rescue measures.'

'We are shocked because in the past two days we have seen events of a brutality that we have never seen before. There has been a leap in the cruelty on the part of the traffickers.'

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said 'the current arrangements are clearly leading to these tragic consequence'.

But he insisted that 'cure' lay not at sea but in dealing with the reasons why people are seeking refuge.

Foreign secretary Phillip Hammond said an international 'co-ordinated response' was needed, adding: 'We must target the traffickers who are responsible for so many people dying at sea and prevent their innocent victims from being tricked or forced into making these perilous journeys.'

The fishing vessel involved in today's disaster had send out an emergency call after having trouble with steering the vessel, and a Portuguese merchant ship arrived at the scene.

As it approached, dozens of people moved from one side of the vessel to the other, and it capsized, Italian news bureau Ansa reported on Sunday. 

An international aid agency spokeswoman has compared the scale of deaths in recent shipwrecks to the death toll in the sinking of the Titanic luxury liner more than a century ago.

Sarah Tyler, a spokeswoman for Save the Children in Catania, Sicily, said more than 1,000 people have died in the waters of the Mediterranean in recent weeks.

She added: 'That is almost as many as died in the Titanic, and 31 times the number who died when the Costa Concordia sank.' 

Yesterday morning EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told European nations they had 'no more excuses' not to act on the migrant crisis.

EU foreign and interior ministers met in Luxembourg to discuss the flood of people desperately trying to reach Europe. 

Arriving at the talks in Luxembourg, Mogherini said the 28-nation EU had 'no more excuses' now not to come up with a common response to the migrant tide.

A child is carried to safety by a member of the coastguard at the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo early on Monday morning after being rescued

A child is carried to safety by a member of the coastguard at the Sicilian harbour of Pozzallo early on Monday morning after being rescued

Two Syrian babies are carried to safety after being rescued from a boat on the coast of Italy. All 100 of the people on board survived 

Two Syrian babies are carried to safety after being rescued from a boat on the coast of Italy. All 100 of the people on board survived 

In safe hands: In a separate rescue operation, around 100 migrants including women and babies were brought to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo late on Sunday night, authorities said

In safe hands: In a separate rescue operation, around 100 migrants including women and babies were brought to the Sicilian port of Pozzallo late on Sunday night, authorities said

Politicians across the continent are now urging countries to work together to stop future tragedies taking place, as more and more people risk their lives in the hands of people traffickers to come to Europe 

Politicians across the continent are now urging countries to work together to stop future tragedies taking place, as more and more people risk their lives in the hands of people traffickers to come to Europe 

'We need immediate action from the EU and the member states,' she said.

EU president Donald Tusk said he would host an emergency summit on the crisis on Thursday.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, whose country is among those bearing the brunt of the flood of migrants, said Rome was studying the possibility of mounting 'targeted interventions' against the Libya-based people smugglers behind the crossings. 

Many fear the surge in the number of migrants making the crossing may be linked to the growing influence of ISIS which has strongholds in the towns of Sirte and Derna. 

Only this weekend ISIS militants filmed themselves savagely beheading and shooting 30 Ethiopian Christians that authorities believe were would-be migrants that had travelled to Libya with dreams of making a new life in Europe.

Speaking of his concerns that the Christians were migrants, Ethiopian government spokesman Redwan Hussein said: 'If this is confirmed, it will be a warning to people who wish to risk and travel to Europe through the dangerous route.'  

Abba Kaletsidk Mulugeta, an official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church's Patriarchate Office, said he also believed the victims were probably migrants.

Prime Minister of Italy (right) Matteo Renzi has asked for an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders after the incident. 'Italy asks not to be left on its own' he said as he described the trafficking of people as a 'slave trade'

Prime Minister of Italy (right) Matteo Renzi has asked for an extraordinary meeting of EU leaders after the incident. 'Italy asks not to be left on its own' he said as he described the trafficking of people as a 'slave trade'

Pope Francis led tributes to the victims of the disaster. He expressed his 'deepest pain' at the tragedy and urged the international community to take action to stop migrants dying as they try to reach Europe

Pope Francis led tributes to the victims of the disaster. He expressed his 'deepest pain' at the tragedy and urged the international community to take action to stop migrants dying as they try to reach Europe

'I believe this is just another case of the IS group killing Christians in the name of Islam. Our fellow citizens have just been killed on a faith-based violence that is totally unacceptable,' he said.  

'This is outrageous. No religion orders the killing of other people, even people from another religion,' he added.  

Fear of capture and execution at the hands of the radical Islamists is no doubt one element driving the desperate migrants to leave Libya as quickly as they can, dangerously overloading vessels operated by heartless people traffickers.

As well as the spread of ISIS in the country, Libya is currently in a state of civil war - with two rival governments controlling and operating in different areas of the country.

People smugglers are taking advantage of the subsequent chaos and confusion tearing the country apart to ply their trade with little to no threat of being caught.

In 2015, there have already been 30 times more migrants dying off the coast of Libya than in 2014, which was itself a record-breaking year.

Experts have also drawn links between the massive rise in would-be migrants and a so-called 'deal in the desert' struck by Tony Blair in 2004 - which saw the late Muammar Gaddafi agree to crack down on human traffickers as well as renouncing Libya's possession of WMDs and decommissioning the country's chemical and nuclear weapons programs. 

In 2008 Gaddafi sought to stiff the European Union for £4.1 billion a year in return for halting the flows of migrants in and out of Libya.

In October 2010, the EU paid Libya more than £30 million to stop African migrants passing into Europe. Gaddafi encouraged the move, saying that it was necessary to prevent the loss of European cultural identity to a new 'Black Europe'.

His barbaric treatment of the would-be migrants was widely condemned. It was claimed that his officials would round up the migrants and hold them for months or even years in horrendously overcrowded detention centres, where rape, violence and torture were common.

The migrants would then typically be deported to Libya's southern border crossing with Sudan - where they were abandoned in a harsh desert environment - or otherwise flown back to their country of origin without any checks on what they would be facing back home.

As Blair's much touted 'deal in the desert' turned sour, Gaddafi gave people smugglers in Zuwara the green light to resume their trade and the migrant routes have flourished ever since. 

FARAGE: 'BRITAIN SHOULD ONLY LET IN CHRISTIANS FLEEING LIBYA'

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the UK should only accept Christian refugees

Ukip leader Nigel Farage said the UK should only accept Christian refugees

Nigel Farage today claimed Britain should only accept refugees who are Christian.

The Ukip leader risked being accused of discriminating on the basis of religion, as he suggested living in Libya is now 'virtually impossible' for Christians.

He also claimed David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy's 'fanaticism' in bombing Libya directly caused the problem of migrant tragedies at sea.

Mr Farage said the 2011 military action completely destabilised the north African country and turned it into a place of 'much savagery'. 

The Ukip leader was challenged over whether his anti-EU stance was at odds with the need for a pan-European solution to the crisis of refugees fleeing north Africa.

But he told BBC1's Sunday Politics: 'It's the European response that caused this problem in the first place.

'The fanaticism of (former French president) Sarkozy and (Prime Minister) Cameron to bomb Libya ... what they've done is to completely destabilise Libya, to turn it into a country with much savagery, to turn it into a place where for Christians the situation is now virtually impossible. We ought to be honest and say we have directly caused this problem.'

Asked if no migrants attempted to enter Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea before military action in Libya, Mr Farage said:

'There were no migrants coming across from Libya in these quantities before we bombed the country, got rid of (then Libyan leader Muammar) Gaddafi - however bad he may have been - and destabilised the whole situation, of that I have no doubt.

'But I'm the one person who has said that I do think, especially for Christians in that part of the world, they now have almost nowhere to go.

'I have not got a problem with us offering refugee status to some Christians from those countries.'

Later the Ukip leader flip-flopped, saying he felt 'sorry' for those who felt compelled to flee their countries. 

During a walkabout in Rochester, he said the Government should 'send the Royal Navy down' to help with the crisis but and that David Cameron has 'a very big challenge' when he visits the summit on Thursday. 

'We could send the Royal Navy down, but it's a question of what's the signal - is the signal 'If they keep on coming we'll keep on taking you' or is the signal 'We're very sorry, we can't take you'?"' 

 

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By Shedrack Mittens 04/21/2015 06:51:00
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