Charges Filed in Lampedusa Tragedy
Prosecutors in Agrigento Italy have officially pressed charges against Khaled Ben Salam, the alleged captain of the migrant boat that sank off the coast of Lampedusa killing 232. He has since been put into custody and moved to a jail in Agrigento.
Survivors identified the Tunisian native hailing from the coastal town of Sfax, but an alleged assistant still hasn’t been named. The second suspect is believed to be a young Tunesian man, who has yet to be identified by survivors, but who may have died in the crash. The charges against Ben Salam could range from multiple counts of voluntary manslaughter, to causing a shipwreck and aiding in illegal immigration.
It is believed that Ben Salam is one of the leaders of the Libyian of the organization who helped to organize this human trafficking operation that brought the African migrants to Italy. Ben Salam is accused of having transported the African migrants to the coastal city of Misurata, where they were then transferred to the larger ill-fated vessel that would bring them to Lampedusa.
The immigrants are believed to have paid Ben Salam an estimated $1600-2000 per person to bring them from Africa to Italy, meaning that the trip would have netted the human traffickers over $1 million for the trip. Lampedusa Island is a common destination for asylum seekers because of its location half-way between Tunisia and Sicily, receiving tens of thousands of people hoping to illegally enter the European Union.
Refugees aboard the boat have put the total number of migrants at 520 people consisting of between 80-90 women and 15 children, leaving 200 people unaccounted for.
Ben Salem is believed to have been responsible for a similar voyage in April in which he was arrested after bringing 250 immigrants to Lampedusa. The Lampedusa tragedy has brought to light the need for more European Union assistance to aid in Italy’s illegal immigration problems. European Union Interior Ministers are set to meet late Tuesday to decide upon a response to the Lampedusa tragedy.