(Sky News) Italian Police in the Sicilian port city of Augusta have arrested 10 alleged traffickers who were amongst hundreds of migrants rescued at sea.
Fifteen migrants are also being held for allegedly throwing others overboard following a shipwreck in the Mediterranean. The Italian coast guard has said migrants have been arriving at an unprecedented rate since Friday, with 10,000 pulled from rickety vessels at sea and another 400 people drowned off Libya.
Police say the African Muslim migrants were held after witnesses said they had thrown 12 Christian passengers into the sea after a brawl on a boat heading to Italy. A further 41 migrants are feared drowned in a separate Mediterranean shipwreck, based on survivor accounts.
The survivors said they had boarded a rubber boat April 14 on the Libyan coast with 105 passengers aboard, part of the wave of migrants taking advantage of calm seas and warm weather to make the risky crossing from Libya, where most smuggling operations originate.
During the crossing, the migrants from Nigeria and Ghana — believed to be Christians — were threatened with being abandoned at sea by some 15 other passengers from the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali and Guinea Bissau.
The surviving Christians, a statement said, only managed to stay on board by forming a “human chain” to resist the assault.
Four migrants picked up by the Italian Navy said their inflatable vessel sank not long after leaving the coast of Libya for Europe with 45 people on board.