By TRISHA THOMAS and COLLEEN BARRY of AP via Huff Post World Post
CATANIA, Sicily (AP) — Prosecutors said Tuesday that they arrested the captain and a crew member of the boat in which as many as 900 people are feared to have drowned in the unremitting waves of migrants seeking to escape from war-torn Libya.
Even as the search continued for victims of the weekend disaster, coast guard ships rushed to respond to new distress calls on the high seas — two off Libya and a third boat that ran aground near Greece.
Assistant Prosecutor Rocco Liguori said the Tunisian captain and Syrian crew member were arrested aboard the rescue boat that brought 27 survivors from the deadly shipwreck to Sicily. The two were charged with favoring illegal immigration and the captain was also charged with reckless multiple homicide in relation to the sinking.
Decrying what he called an “escalation in these death voyages,” Italian Premier Matteo Renzi urged Europe to put the focus on preventing more boats from leaving Libya, the source of 90 percent of migrant traffic to Italy.
“We are facing an organized criminal activity that is making lots of money, but above all ruining many lives,” Renzi said at a joint news conference with Malta’s prime minister, Joseph Muscat. He compared their activity to that of slave traders of centuries past, “unscrupulous men who traded human lives.”