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October 08, 2013

Italy Detains Suspected Migrant Boat Captain; Toll Rises

by VOA News

Italy has detained a Tunisian man believed to be the captain of the boat carrying hundreds of African migrants that sank off the coast of southern Lampedusa island last week.

The arrest Tuesday of the 35-year-old man came as divers continued to recover bodies from the wreckage, raising the toll to 275.

The boat was carrying as many as 500 people, mostly Eritrean and Somali migrants, part of a wave of African migrants trying to reach European territory.  Only 155 survivors were rescued.

It was one of the worst single incidents involving economic migrants and refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean from Africa in search of a new life in Europe.

The European Commission is proposing search-and-rescue missions in the Mediterranean to intercept and help migrant boats.

EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem says she will present a plan to the European Union that calls for setting up patrols from Cyprus to Spain.

Malmstroem will visit the site of the Lampedusa disaster Wednesday with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.