Europe confronts deadly migration crisis

Alleged traffickers charged as migrant deaths... 02:11

CATANIA, Italy -- Two men have been arrested after what may be Europe's worst ever migrant sea disaster.

More than 800 people are feared drowned after their boat capsized trying to reach Italy from North Africa, including as many as 300 women and children, and CBS News correspondent Holly Williams says the disaster is forcing Europe to confront the deadly business of human trafficking.

The survivors of the shipwreck were brought ashore at a dock in Catania, on the east coast of the Italian island of Sicily, late Monday night. Smugglers had promised to get them to Europe, but only 28 people made it to safety after their boat sank 70 miles off the coast of Libya.

Many of the survivors came from Africa, hoping for a better life in Europe. They narrowly escaped death.

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They were met in Catania by Italian officials, and protestors demanding that Europe open its doors to more refugees so that desperate people are less inclined to put their lives in the hands of the unscrupulous smugglers.

Two men, accused of being the sunken vessel's captain and a crew member, were arrested by Italian police Monday.

Last year, Europe scaled back its search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, hoping to discourage migrants by sending a message that they might not be saved.

But it hasn't worked. More than 1,500 are thought to have died already this year trying to make the perilous voyage from the Middle East or North Africa to escape civil war and poverty.

Geele Adan told Williams he made the crossing from Libya a week ago on a 15-foot boat, and is now sleeping on the street in Italy.

Eighteen people died of asphyxiation in that boat's hold, and he said he was "praying to God to save us."

Adan told CBS News he fled Somalia after Islamic militants killed several of his family members.

"The people arriving on boats are troubled people from troubled places," he said. "They should be allowed to come here."

The Italian coast guard had distress calls from a handful more more migrant boats on Monday, and a rescue operation was underway Tuesday to try and save hundreds of people trapped on a fishing boat in the Mediterranean.

Italian Premier Matteo Renzi urged Europe to confront the problem in a united fashion on Monday, citing the sharp "escalation in death voyages" this year.

"We are facing an organized criminal activity that is making lots of money, but above all ruining many lives," Renzi said, adding that history would judge him and his fellow European leaders harshly if a solution was not found.

European leaders were to hold an emergency summit Thursday to discuss a way forward -- a meeting Renzi has stressed should focus on stopping the boats ever leaving the Libyan coast.