Trafficker imprisoned for 18 years over shipwreck that killed 366 migrants

Trafficker deemed responsible for 2013 shipwreck that claimed lives of 366 migrants, gets 18 year prison sentence

Khaled Bensalem, 36, has been convicted by a Sicilian court of causing the 2013 shipwreck that claimed the lives of some 366 migrants, off the coast of the southern Italian island of Lampedusa.

An Italian court on Wednesday found a man guilty of trafficking migrants and sentenced him to an 18-year prison sentence for contributing to a 2013 shipwreck that killed 366 people. The victims, mostly Eritreans, perished in what is still considered one of the worst recorded tragedies in the history of people fleeing war and poverty in Africa on unseaworthy vessels bound for Europe

A court in Agrigento, Sicily, convicted 36-year-old Tunisian Khaled Bensalem of causing the shipwreck and the deaths of so many migrants, as well as aiding illegal immigration according to the Guardian.

Since the 2013 shipwreck, which prompted Italy to start its now-defunct search and rescue mission Mare Nostrum, an even more disastrous shipwreck killed up to 800 migrants and stunned the European Union into finally expanding joint rescue operations.

The Guardian reports that Bensalem’s sentence was reduced by a third from the possible maximum penalty because he was given a fast-track trial, which cuts eventual jail time for a defendant who admits guilt.

Migrant traffickers have exploited lawlessness in Libya to cram people onto unseaworthy boats, charging thousands of dollars for the perilous passage across the Mediterranean.

Over 135,000 migrants and refugees have arrived in Europe by sea so far this year, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees said earlier on Wednesday. The IOM had reported that some 1,727 migrants had already lost their lives in the Mediterranean in the first three months of 2015, with numbers expected to surpass 2014 totals (3,279 fatalities) by the end of the year.