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Italy arrests two survivors of Mediterranean migrant disaster

Italian authorities have arrested two of the survivors of a Mediterranean shipwreck in which around 800 migrants are thought to have died. Earlier, EU politicians pledged to do more to prevent such tragedies.

News agencies cited senior Italian officials early on Tuesday who said that the two suspects were among 27 survivors of Sunday's disaster who were brought to the Sicilian port of Catania by the Italian coast guard.

Infrastructure Minister Graziano Delrio told Reuters that Catania State Prosecutor Giovanni Salvi, who has opened a homicide investigation into the shipwreck, had ordered the arrests.

"Prosecutor Salvi has made two arrests this evening of persons involved, that shows the Italian justice is working," Delrio told reporters in Catania.

Officials from Salvi's office said the suspects were the captain of the ill-fated vessel, as well as his first mate.

Assistant Prosecutor Rocco Liguori told the Associated Press that the captain, a Tunisian national, had been charged with reckless multiple homicide in connection with the disaster. The captain, along with the other crew member, a Syrian, also faced a charge of favoring illegal immigration.

Luxbemburg EU Außenminister Krisentreffen Flüchtlinge Mittelmeer

EU ministers met in Luxembourg on Monday ahead of an emergency summit

EU unveils 10-point plan

News of the arrests came just hours after European Union foreign and interior ministers meeting in Luxembourg agreed on a 10-point plan designed to counter the rising numbers of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. Thousands have drowned attempting to cross into EU territory, often sent by people smugglers on less than seaworthy vessels.

The proposals, which include measures to combat people smuggling gangs and to step up the bloc's maritime patrol operations in the Mediterranean, are to be discussed at an emergency summit of EU leaders on Thursday.

As she unveiled the plan on Monday, the EU's foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini said she hoped it would bring about real improvements.

"I hope that today is the turning point in the European conscience ... not to go back to promises without actions," she said. "We have said too many times in the past 'never again.'"

UN: 800 killed

Meanwhile, the AFP news agency on Tuesday quoted a spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy, who said that after interviewing the survivors of Sunday's shipwreck, they believed that around 800 had drowned.

"We can say that 800 are dead," Carlotta Sami said.

pfd/cmk (Reuters AP, AFP, dpa)

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