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One year anniversary of deadliest migrant shipwreck off Libyan coast

One year anniversary of deadliest migrant shipwreck off Libyan coast

Libya

April 18 marks one year since an overcrowded fishing boat, carrying up to 800 migrants attempted to cross from Libya to Europe, capsized and sank as it approached a merchant ship coming to its aid.

The disaster is believed to be the worst in decades of perilous sea-borne migration from North Africa.

The incident shocked the European Union into expanding rescue operations off the Libyan coast.

According to Italian prosecutors, the fishing boat was so heavily overloaded that it could not be manoeuvred properly.

The captain crashed it into the King Jacob, a Portuguese merchant vessel that had approached it to give aid. As around 100 migrants on deck rushed to one side, the boat capsized and sank.

The ship’s Tunisian captain, Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, was arrested under suspicion of multiple homicide. His 25-year-old Syrian first mate, Mahmud Bikhit, was also suspected of causing a shipwreck.

Only 28 survivors were brought to Italy from the hundreds of mainly African and Bangladeshi migrants on board, including the two suspects.

According to a police report, the death tolls from the incident ranged from 400 to 950 people.

Catania chief prosecutor Giovanni Salvi said only a few survived because most of the migrants on board, including women and children, had been locked in the hold and lower decks of the three-deck fishing boat.