Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has described the traffickers who packed their human cargo into the boat as akin to 18th-century slave traders. Hundreds of the victims, including an unknown number of children, will have died in hellish circumstances having been locked in the hold or the middle deck of the 20-meter boat.
Some 11,000 migrants have been rescued since the middle of last week alone and current trends suggest last year's total of 170,000 landing in Italy is likely to be exceeded in 2015. The issue of who handles these migrants -- for asylum or repatriation -- is hugely sensitive, with Italy complaining that its E.U. partners are not doing enough.
The new policy applies to children from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador who face harm from violence and other dangers. Admission is also possible for spouses and grandchildren of immigrants in some cases.
The plan was formulated in the wake of last year’s unprecedented exodus to the U.S. of families and children traveling alone from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many were fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.