Australia’s prime minister has urged European leaders to adopt tougher border control measures in the wake of the feared drowning of as many as 900 asylum seekers whose boat capsized off the coast of Libya.
Tony Abbott’s government implemented a strict policy of turning back asylum seekers’ boats in a bid to discourage them from trying to reach Australia. On Tuesday, he suggested that Europe follow Australia’s lead to ensure the tragedy in the Mediterranean is not repeated.
Abbott says the only way to stop the deaths of asylum seekers is to stop their boats. He urged Europe to adopt “very strong policies” to end the people-smuggling trade across the Mediterranean.
01:41 a.m. (2341 GMT, 7:41 p.m. EDT)
Prosecutors have arrested the Tunisian captain and a Syrian crew member of a boat that capsized off the coast of Libya with hundreds of people aboard in what may be the deadliest migrant tragedy ever.
Assistant prosecutor Rocco Liguori said the two men were charged with favoring illegal immigration and that the captain was also charged with reckless multiple homicide in relation to the sinking.
The two men were arrested aboard the rescue boat that brought 27 survivors from the shipwreck, which may have killed as many as 900 people, to Italy.
8:10 p.m. (1810 GMT, 2:10 p.m. EDT)
The U.S. says it plans to continue cooperation with Europe on the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Monday, “I think that the tragic events of the last few days just underscore how important that cooperation is.”
EU leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday to discuss how to stem migrant trafficking from Africa and the Middle East after a boat carrying hundreds of people destined for Europe capsized off Libya.
Harf says “ultimately, the goal is that refugees and migrants don’t have to undertake these steps.”
7:15 p.m. (1715 GMT, 1:15 p.m. EDT)
European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini says the reported deaths of hundreds of migrants over the weekend and Monday has “finally” fully woken up the EU to the evil of human trafficking.
She said that gathering 41 EU foreign and home affairs ministers around a table in Luxembourg at less than 24 hours’ notice to discuss answers to the tragedy “finally – finally – gives the idea of a new sense of urgency, a new sense of political will” to tackle the crisis.
Until the weekend the EU had not planned any special meeting and initially, foreign ministers had no plans to directly discuss migration at Monday’s meeting of foreign ministers.
But as the reality of the disasters in the Mediterranean started to sink in, EU President Donald Tusk on Monday called for an emergency meeting of government leaders, set for next Thursday.
Over the past week, the EU has faced increasing criticism over why it has taken it so long to jump into action. “As a human being and as a mother, this is also the question that I asked myself in these hours,” Mogherini said.
6:50 p.m. (1650 GMT, 12:50 p.m. EDT)
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross is urging European countries to ensure their search and rescue program is “wide enough and strong enough,” share the burden of dealing with an influx of refugees and help resolve the conflicts that are causing people to flee.
ICRC President Peter Maurer said in Geneva after the latest migrant boat tragedy, “We understand that EU member states have other preoccupations, but right now they have to give priority to humanitarian concerns.”
He says European Union countries along with humanitarian groups and others must ensure that responsibilities are not just left to Italy and other front-line nations, and they must play their part in working for political solutions to conflicts that migrants are fleeing.
Rescue crews searched Monday for survivors and bodies from what could be the Mediterranean’s deadliest migrant tragedy, with some reports saying at least 700 people may have died.
6:15 p.m. (1615 GMT; 12:15 p.m. EDT)
Redwan Hussein, a spokesman for Ethiopia’s government, says the Ethiopian Christians who were killed by the Islamic State group in Libya were migrants who were trying to reach Europe.
The government on Monday confirmed that many Ethiopians held captive in Libya were killed by the Islamic State group, after a video emerged on Sunday of the killings.
The 29-minute video believed to be released by the Islamic militants shows a group of Ethiopian Christians held captive in Libya being shot or beheaded by extremists.
5:20 p.m. (1520 GMT; 11:20 a.m. EDT)
The head of Frontex, the European border surveillance agency, says that recent tragedies involving migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe show that the continent must do more to stop economic migration.
Fabrice Leggeri told The Associated Press on Monday that Europe should help people fleeing political persecution in their countries, but economic migration, he said, is another matter and should be prevented.
Leggeri, whose agency is based in Warsaw, said that European countries should send economic migrants back to their countries of origin by plane so that they can spread the truth that there can be no safe journey.
He said Europe should also counter the smugglers who lure migrants with promises of safe passage to Europe, while they in fact expose them to danger.
Migrants crossing the Mediterranean are fleeing conflict, repression and poverty in countries such as Eritrea, Niger, Syria, Iraq and Somalia.
5:10 p.m. (1510 GMT; 11:10 a.m. EDT)
The United Nations’ human rights chief is calling on European Union governments to take a new and “less callous” approach to the surge of migrants crossing the Mediterranean Sea, arguing that increasingly harsh efforts to deter migration have been a failure.
Zeid Raad al-Hussein said Monday that recent deaths in the Mediterranean were “the result of a continuing failure of governance accompanied by a monumental failure of compassion.” He called for the creation of a robust and well-financed European search and rescue effort, and called for the international community to set up an independent inquiry.
Zeid, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said in Geneva that Europe is turning its back on some of the world’s most vulnerable migrants and risks turning the Mediterranean into “a vast cemetery.”
5 p.m. (1500 GMT; 11 a.m. EDT)
European Union leaders will hold an emergency summit on Thursday to address the crisis in the Mediterranean.
EU President Donald Tusk made the announcement on Monday after days of waffling and indecision on how to tackle the rapidly worsening tragedy of hundreds of migrants drowning during their attempts to reach Europe’s shores.
The situation worsened further Monday with rescue crews searching for survivors and bodies from what could be the Mediterranean’s deadliest migrant tragedy ever as hundreds more migrants took to the sea.
British Prime Minister David Cameron welcomed the summit. He said: “I think what we need is a comprehensive plan that does involve elements of search and rescue but, crucially, we have got to do more to deal with the problems in the countries from which these people are coming.”
4:45 p.m. (1445 GMT; 10:45 a.m. EDT)
Italian prosecutor Giovanni Salvi says the smuggler’s boat that sank near Libya this weekend had three levels and migrants were locked in the hull and on the second level.
Salvi told a news conference in Catania, Sicily, that “a few hundred were forced into the hull and they were locked in and prevented from coming out.” He said hundreds more were “closed in” at the second level, while hundreds more were on the upper deck.
One survivor of the weekend sinking, identified as a 32-year-old Bangladeshi, has put the number of people on board the smugglers’ boat at as many as 950, though Salvi said that number should be treated with caution. He said the Coast Guard had estimated 700 people were on board, based on its observations at the scene.
3:25 p.m. (1325 GMT; 9:25 a.m. EDT)
Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says Italian and Maltese ships are responding to two migrant emergencies near the Libyan coast.
Renzi told a joint press conference with Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat, on Monday that ships from the two countries were responding to distress calls from an inflatable life-raft near the Libyan coast with 100 to 150 aboard and to another boat with 300 people on board.
Renzi said the rescue operations, coming after the deadly shipwreck this weekend, are evidence that smugglers’ activities are intensifying and that Europe needs to unite to combat the human trafficking in the Mediterranean.
Muscat called the weekend tragedy `’a game changer” with the `’realization that if Europe doesn’t work together history will judge it very badly.”
2:35 p.m. (1235 GMT; 8:35 a.m. EDT)
British Prime Minister David Cameron has paused from campaigning for the general election to lash out at the traffickers behind the tragedy in the Mediterranean.
“It is a very dark day for Europe, he said. “It really is horrific the scenes that we have all witnessed on our television screens, the loss of life.
“We should put the blame squarely with the criminal human traffickers who are the ones managing, promoting and selling this trade, this trade in human life.”
Cameron said he believes in a comprehensive approach that deals with the instability in the countries involved.
“We must use all the resources we have, including Britain’s aid budget, which can play a role in trying to stabilize countries and trying to stop people from trafficking,” he said.
2:25 p.m. (1225 GMT; 8:25 a.m. EDT)
Police in southern Italy say they have broken up a major human smuggling ring responsible for the waves of migrants reaching Italian shores, and have detailed how the traffickers make money through illicit payments from desperate migrants willing to make the deadly crossings.
Palermo prosecutor Maurizio Scalia told reporters that arrest warrants have been issued against 24 people, 14 of them in Italy but at least one of them at large in Libya.
Ermias Ghermay, an Ethiopian, was already named in an arrest warrant in connection with an October 2013 capsizing off Lampedusa that left 366 dead and caused international outrage.
At a news conference, prosecutors detailed the fees paid by migrants at every stop of their voyage, based on wire intercepts.
2:05 p.m. (1205 GMT; 8:05 a.m. EDT)
The Greek Coast Guard says a total of 93 people were rescued from a migrant boat that ran aground on the coast of the Greek island of Rhodes.
The death toll stood at three – a man, a woman and a child. About 30 of those rescued were transported to the local hospital, the Coast Guard said, adding that a diver and an Air Force helicopter are continuing the search for any other potential survivors.
1:45 p.m. (1145 GMT; 7:45 a.m. EDT)
The prime ministers of Poland and the Czech Republic say the European Union should help stabilize the situation in the countries migrants leave when they embark on the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean.
Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz said Monday the EU should work to help improve living conditions in such countries, but didn’t give any details.
Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said his country is ready to support such measures, adding it’s “necessary for the European Union to focus clearly on ending the civil war in Libya.”
Hundreds of people are believed to have died in recent weeks as boats overloaded with migrants have capsized after leaving Libya for Europe.
1:10 p.m. (1110 GMT; 7:10 a.m. EDT)
The International Organization for Migration says its Rome office has received a distress call from international waters in the Mediterranean about three boats in need of help.
The IOM says the caller reported 300 people on his boat with about 20 fatalities and said the boat was sinking. The caller provided no information on the other boats.
The IOM had no additional details, including the location of the distress call.
12:15 a.m. (1015 GMT; 6:15 a.m. EDT)
Video footage and photos posted by the local news website Rodiaki of the grounding of a migrant boat off the coast of the Greek island of Rhodes on Monday show a large, wooden double-masted boat, people packed on board, just meters away from the island.
The vessel rocks wildly in the waves and passengers are seen in a photo jumping into the sea and swimming toward land.
In another video, about a dozen migrants sit on a floating piece of wreckage pushed toward the shore. Coast Guard officers and passers-by jump into the waves to rescue the migrants, including a young child wearing a lifejacket.
At least three people are known to have died in the incident.
11:55 a.m. (0955 GMT; 5:55 a.m. EDT)
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, adding `’that is almost as many as died in the Titanic, and 31 times the number who died when the Costa Concordia sank.”
One survivor’s account has put at up to 950 the number of people on board the smuggler’s boat that sank off the coast of Libya this weekend, with only a handful rescued. Last week more than 400 people died or went missing in another shipwreck.
The Bangladeshi survivor said many of the passengers were below deck and trapped inside when the boat sank.
11:40 a.m. (0940 GMT; 5:45 a.m. EDT)
The Greek coast guard says it is unclear how or why a boat carrying migrants ran ashore off the coast of the island of Rhodes, killing at least three people.
It says it received an emergency call from the boat, which is a wooden gulet with a mast, at 10:45 a.m. local time (0745 GMT).
11:15 a.m. (0915 GMT; 5:15 a.m. EDT)
Greek authorities say at least three people have died, including a child, after a wooden boat carrying dozens of migrants from the Turkish shore ran aground off the eastern Aegean island of Rhodes.
FOLLOW NEW AFRICA BUSINESS NEWS ON FACEBOOK @ New Africa Business News.com