Migrant crisis: Captain appears in Italian court

The alleged captain of a sunken migrant ship, which killed more than 800, has appeared in an Italian court. It comes as the EU has agreed to treble its funding to tackle the on-going crisis.

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HMS Bulwark deployed to aid migrant crisis

HMS Bulwark will leave Turkey today Credit: Reuters

The Navy's flagship will today set off to join efforts to ease the migrants crisis in the Mediterranean, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.

HMS Bulwark is leading Britain's contribution to an operation aimed at stemming the loss of life of refugees fleeing the turmoil in Africa and the Middle East.

More than 1,700 people are estimated to have died attempting to cross the Mediterranean to Europe so far this year.

The 19,000 tonne assault ship has been in the Dardanelles for the Gallipoli centenary commemorations in Turkey.

Supported by two UK Border Force cutters and three Royal Navy Merlin helicopters with sophisticated radar designed to spot small surface vessels over long distances, Bulwark is expected to continue operations for around two months.

Italian authorities said they had rescued 274 migrants from a vessel off the Libyan coast on Saturday.

UN refugee chief: EU 'lagging far behind' on refugee crisis

A newly-rescued boat of migrants is pictured being brought to Sicily this morning. Credit: RTV

The United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees has called on western nations to create more "legal alternatives" for refugees to find protection following yesterday's EU proposals to tackle the migrant crisis.

Writing for Time magazine, Antonio Guterres, also the former Prime Minister of Portugal, wrote that Europe's response was "lagging far behind" despite "the greatest humanitarian disaster since World War Two".

He said the actions of European leaders at yesterday's summit "show that Europe recognizes the need for collective action to respond to the enormous tragedy that is unfolding on its borders".

However, he also called for a commitment to "expanded resettlement and humanitarian admission schemes", among a raft of other proposed measures to help those seeking refuge.

"Without realistic alternative channels for people to reach safety, the much-needed increase in international efforts to crack down on smugglers and traffickers is unlikely to be effective," he added.


Migrant ship 'captain' pictured in dock at court hearing

The suspected captain of this weekend's sunken migrant ship has been pictured in the dock ahead of his court appearance in the Italian port of Catania this morning.

Mohammed Ali Malek - pictured with short dark hair, a black top and jeans - faces a long prison sentence if convicted in relation to the deaths.

The 27-year-old denies that he was in charge of the ship, which was believed to have been carrying hundreds of African and Bangladeshi people from Libya.

His co-accused, Mahmud Bikhit, 25 - who may face charges of favoring clandestine immigration but not of multiple homicide - also denies that he was involved in the disaster.

Boat captain and first mate to deny guilt in court

Two men appearing in court this morning over this weekend's Mediterranean boat tragedy have denied their guilt, ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray reports.

Five of the survivors will appear in court along with the two accused during the private hearing.

Key measures: EU proposals to tackle migrant crisis

The European Union has committed to 17 proposals it says will make a difference in the Mediterranean within days.

Here is a summary of what was agreed at yesterday's summit of leaders:

  • Trebling annual funding for search and rescue to 120 million euros (£86 million), putting current operations in line with last year's Mare Nostrum mission
  • Pledging aircraft and boats to support the mission - Britain promised the Royal Navy flagship HMS Bulwark along with three helicopters and two other ships
  • A promise to tackle human trafficking in north Africa, including a pledge to "identify, capture and destroy" vessels before they can be used
  • Plans for a pilot project to bring in refugees and spread them more broadly across the European Union


HMS Bulwark could be quickly deployed to aid migrant rescue

The Royal Navy ship that David Cameron has promised to send to the Mediterranean to aid the migrant rescue could be in the area within days.

HMS Bulwark could be aiding the migrant rescue within days Credit: Ministry of Defence

HMS Bulwark, which is used to respond quickly to crises and world events, has served around the globe and is currently in Turkey for the Gallipoli centenary commemorations.

From there, the assault ship could deploy to the affected area relatively quickly.

Bulwark can carry 256 troops, with their vehicles and combat supplies, and this can be increased to 405.

The ship played an important role in evacuating British nationals from Beirut, Lebanon in July, 2006, after Israel launched an air offensive following the capture of two of its soldiers by Lebanese guerrillas.

Migrant boat captain and first mate up in court

Mahmud Bikhit and Mohammed Ali Malek were part of a group of only 28 survivors of the ship. Credit: Reuters

The Tunisian captain of a fishing boat which sank off the coast of Libya will appear in court today charged with causing the deaths of around 800 people.

Mohammed Ali Malek, 27, and his Syrian first mate Mahmud Bikhit, 25, were arrested after being rescued along with 26 others on April 19.

The pair are expected to be brought before a court in Catania, Italy for a hearing which could last a few hours.

PM: Need to target 'gangs, traffickers and boat owners'

David Cameron has said Europe needs a "comprehensive plan" to target criminal gangs, traffickers and the owners of the boats.

Cameron met with other European leaders. Credit: PA

After an emergency EU summit in Brussels, the Prime Minister said: "But what's emerging is what we need which is a comprehensive plan, going after the criminal gangs, going after the traffickers, going after the owners of the boats, potentially taking action there as well. And stabilising the countries from which these people are coming."

Mr Cameron said it was "right for Britain to step forward" with the Royal Navy to play a role.

"They'll be saving lives, not offering people asylum in the UK, but saving lives and taking them to Italy or to other nearby countries," he added.

"That's the role we can play in the immediate term, but a comprehensive strategy is what in the end will make the difference and solve those problems."

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