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UN confirms 800 died in migrant shipwreck off Libya

The United Nations refugee agency has confirmed 800 migrants died in a shipwreck off Libya on Sunday after speaking to survivors of the disaster.

Carlotta Sami, spokeswoman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Italy, said: "There were a little over 800 people on board, including children aged between 10 and 12.

"There were Syrians, about 150 Eritreans, Somalians... They had left Tripoli at about 8 am on Saturday."

The disaster is thought to be the worst to have occurred in the Mediterranean in recent history.

Representatives from the UN agency and the International Organization for Migration said they had interviewed the majority of 27 survivors, who described the moment the trawler carrying them capsized after a Portuguese merchant ship approached the vessel, causing a stampede.

The survivors, who came from Mali, Gambia, Senegal, Somalia, Eritrea and Bangladesh, have now been taken to holding centres.


Captain 'charged with reckless multiple homicide'

The captain of a migrant boat which capsized off the coast of Libya killing hundreds onboard has been charged with reckless multiple homicide, the Associated Press reports.

Assistant Prosecutor Rocco Liguori said the Tunisian national and a Syrian crew member were also charged with "favoring illegal immigration".

As many as 900 people died in the tragedy on Sunday while just 27 survived.

Italian PM: Migrant crisis is equivalent of slave trade

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Credit: Reuters

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has compared the smuggling of migrants across the Mediterranean to the African slave trade centuries ago.

He said: "When we say we are in the presence of slavery, we are not using the word just for effect."

On Sunday Renzi appealed to other European countries not to leave Italy alone in dealing with the crisis prompting emergency talks on the matter.


Survivors of capsized migrant boat back on dry land

The 27 survivors of a migrant boat which capsized killing as many as 900 people are finally back on dry land tonight 24 hours after the tragedy.

ITV News Correspondent John Ray tweeted it was the "end of a journey from hell".

Surviving migrants arrive in Sicily tonight. Credit: Reuters
A survivor is helped by rescue workers Credit: Reuters

PM urged to prioritise saving lives during migrant talks

The Prime Minister will break off from campaigning to attend emergency EU talks on the migrant crisis. Credit: PA

David Cameron has been urged to "prioritise saving lives" by a coalition of aid agencies and refugee groups when he attends emergency talks on the migrant boat crisis.

An open letter to the Prime Minister, co-ordinated by the British Refugee Council, said a way must be established to help refugees fleeing turmoil to find protection in Europe safely and legally.

The groups, including Oxfam and Amnesty International UK, say there needs to be a new approach to dealing with the issue.

"There is no easy answer to this crisis, but the solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown," the letter says.

"Until safer ways to seek refuge are found, more people will be forced into the hands of smugglers and onto unseaworthy boats in their search for a safe haven.

"At the moment, European and Britain's immigration policies leave many with no other choice.

"Building the walls of fortress Europe has had disgracefully deadly results. As we've seen, it's a matter of life and death."

US pledges extra $17.7m humanitarian aid to Ukraine

America has pledged an additional $17.7 million to provide the Ukrainian government with aid for essentials such as food, shelter and water.

Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about reform efforts in the country today.

A statement from the White House said: "The vice president welcomed the appointment of a new head of the anti-corruption bureau and encouraged the further implementation of rule of law reforms, including anti-trust measures and judicial reform."

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