Five North African men have been arrested on suspicion of multiple homicide and human trafficking following the catastrophic loss of more than 200 migrant lives, including children, off the coast of Libya on Wednesday.
Italian police arrested two Libyans, two Algerians and a Tunisian in Palermo Friday, ranging in age from 21 to 24.
The five arrested men were named as Ali Rouibah, Shauki Esshaush, Imad Busadia, Abdullah Assnusi and Suud Mujassabi, as horrific accounts of the smugglers’ behaviour on board the ill-fated boat emerged.
Shauki Esshaush; Ali Rouibah; Abdullah Assnusi; Suud Mujassabi and Imad Busadia
Survivors who had paid upwards of €1,000 for a place on the vessel told authorities they were beaten back with knives, clubs and belts by the men as they tried to escape. Migrants above deck were ordered to sit on the hatch to keep those below deck from escaping. The boat was carrying some 650 people.
A support team from the Irish Defence Forces was due in Palermo last night to assess the impact of the catastrophe on the 57-strong crew of the LÉ Niamh which rescued 367 migrants.
Lt Aoife Campbell who was on board during the tragedy described the experience to RTÉ as “exceptionally harrowing”. While the crew of the Irish naval vessel does not have the power to detain suspects, they were able to pass on information to the authorities in Italy to assist in the arrest of the traffickers.
President Michael D Higgins described the EU response to the ongoing migrant crisis as “not only late, but grossly inadequate”.
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