Traffickers murdered refugee 'for baseball cap'
Italian authorities opened an investigation yesterday into the murder of an African migrant allegedly shot by a people smuggler because the migrant refused to give up his baseball cap, police said.
The inquiry was opened as thousands of migrants arrived in Italy from Libya following a surge in smuggling activity.
The body of the 21-year-old man was unloaded in the Sicilian port of Catania on Saturday from rescue ship Phoenix, operated by the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station (Moas).
The organisation brought back 394 migrants, including another with a gunshot wound and the elder brother of the dead man who allegedly witnessed the killing aboard the smuggler's boat bound for Italy.
Regina Catambrone, the founder of Moas, disclosed the murder at a news conference at which she strongly denied claims by Italian politicians and magistrates that her organisation was among organisations allegedly suspected of conniving with traffickers.
"We are seeing manipulation by political parties," she said. "We are interested in saving human lives."
Italian officials struggled to cope with the arrival of more than 3,000 migrants who were being brought to Sicily this weekend after being rescued from the Mediterranean by the Italian Coast Guard, a Spanish Navy warship and vessels operated by charities including Save the Children.
In all 3,149 rescued migrants were due to arrive in Sicily yesterday after being saved from flimsy craft in 20 separate operations co-ordinated by the coast guard operational headquarters in Rome, officials said.
Even the normally inactive Libyan coast guard managed to save 140 people off the coast of Tripoli, according to the English-language 'Libya Observer'.
As many as 32,253 migrants have landed in Italy from Libya so far this year, an increase of 29pc compared to the same period last year, the interior ministry said.
Officers from Catania police were questioning the brother of the murdered man yesterday as a judge ordered a post-mortem on the body. (© Daily Telegraph London)