23 Apr 2015

Traffickers are 21st century 'slave traders'

8:57 am on 23 April 2015

Italy says it is "at war" with migrant traffickers, and has urged the EU to take robust action to stop more people dying in the Mediterranean. He went on to describe the human smugglers as "the slave traders of the 21st Century".

Rescued migrants walk along the quayside after disembarking from the Italian Navy vessel Bettica in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta on April 22, 2015 .

Rescued migrants walk along the quayside after disembarking from the Italian Navy vessel Bettica in the Sicilian harbour of Augusta this week. Photo: AFP

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi was speaking ahead of an EU summit to discuss the crisis. Italy's Defence Minister Roberta Pinotti told Italian TV that the EU should consider military intervention.

More than 800 people drowned off Libya's coast on Sunday, bringing the number of deaths this year to 1,750.

The number of people attempting to flee war and poverty in the Middle East and Africa, particularly Eritreans and Syrians, has spiked in recent months, leading to huge numbers of people drowning in unseaworthy and often overcrowded vessels.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said there have been 30 times as many deaths so far in 2015 as in the same period last year and the figure could rise to 30,000.

More than 500 people rescued from several other boats were brought ashore by Italian coastguards on Wednesday.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi gives a speech at the Upper House of Parliament in Rome on April 22, 2015, after observing a minute of silence in memory of the 800 migrants feared to have died when a boat packed with migrants capsized near Libya.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in the Parliament in Rome, after a minute of silence in memory of the 800 migrants feared to have died when a boat packed with migrants capsized near Libya. Photo: AFP

Addressing the Italian parliament on Wednesday, Mr Renzi said the 28-member EU must come up with concrete measures to tackle the growing problem.

- BBC