Italian authorities have arrested eight suspected human traffickers following a tragedy on Saturday (August 15) in which 49 migrants died.
According to the Italian Navy, the victims were discovered in the hold of a waterlogged fishing boat “immersed in water, fuel and human excrement.”
Four Libyans, three Moroccans and one Syrian have been detained, accused of forcibly preventing the migrants from leaving the hold as they suffocated.
Commander of the Italian Finance Police Alberto Nastasia outlined the suspected abuse:
“Abuse was inflicted to prevent the dozens of people crammed into the hold of the boat from getting out. Kicks, belt lashes, punches, all kinds of violence were used to prevent migrants from getting out of the hold.”
Inceasing numbers of casualties
It represents the third mass fatality in the Mediterranean in August 2015. Migrants are often crammed into overcrowded boats or rubber dinghies, in a desperate effort to reach the shores of Italy or Greece.
Those who have safely arrived in Italy say they are charged between 1,200 and 1,800 dollars for a place on the deck of boats.
Human traffickers running the operations from Libya are said to charge around half that price for a spot in the overcrowded hold.
Figures released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) suggest more than 2,300 people have perished in the stretch of water between January and August 2015.
Fatalities at sea in the whole of 2014 stood at just under 3,300 people.
In the first eight months of 2015, around a 140,000 migrants had successfully completed the crossing (approximately 130,000 landing in Greece and around 107,000 in Italy).