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EU meeting to discuss migrant trafficking; 950 aboard latest capsized boat off Libya

Published:Sunday | April 19, 2015 | 5:22 PM

Britain's foreign secretary says he will bring up the issue of migrant trafficking at a meeting of European Union foreign ministers on Monday.

Philip Hammond made the remarks on Sunday after a migrant boat carrying hundreds of people capsized off Libya's coast. At least 24 people are confirmed dead, and there are 28 survivors. One survivor said the boat had 700 people aboard, but Italian officials said they couldn't confirm that number.

Hammond says "we must target the traffickers who are responsible for so many people dying at sea and prevent their innocent victims from being tricked or forced into making these perilous journeys."

He says he discussed ideas to combat migrant trafficking with Group of Seven foreign ministers last week, and he plans to do so again with EU counterparts in Luxembourg on Monday.

Italian prosecutors say a survivor of the migrant boat capsizing in the Mediterranean has told them 950 people were aboard, including hundreds who were locked in the hold by smugglers.

Catania Prosecutor Giovanni Salvi told The Associated Press by phone from that Sicilian city that the survivor, a man from Bangladesh, gave the information to prosecutors who interviewed him at the Catania hospital where he was flown by an Italian navy helicopter.

Earlier, authorities said a survivor told them that 700 people were aboard the boat, which capsized off Libya's coast on its way to Europe. It wasn't immediately clear if it was the same survivor who gave two different figures, or if the two figures came from two different survivors. The official death toll is 24, with 28 people rescued.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi says officials are "not in a position to confirm or verify" that a migrant smugglers' boat that capsized off Libya's coast had 700 people aboard, as one survivor told rescuers.

Renzi told reporters in Rome on Sunday evening that so far there were 28 survivors and 24 dead. Renzi says the boat was headed to Malta.

The premier said 18 ships, including cargo ships, were helping in the search mission.

He ruled out any naval blockade off Libya's coast, saying that would only "wind up helping the smugglers" since military ships would be there to rescue any migrants. He also said migrants can't be forced back to Libya, because of the violent chaos there.