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Summary

  1. Hundreds of people feared to have drowned after a boat carrying up to 700 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea
  2. Major rescue operation ongoing after the vessel capsized in Libyan waters south of Italy's island of Lampedusa
  3. Italian ships, the Maltese Navy and commercial vessels are all involved in the rescue operation
  4. If confirmed, it would be the biggest migrant tragedy to have taken place in the Mediterranean in recent times

Live Reporting

By Yaroslav Lukov, Lauren Turner, Roland Hughes and Mario Cacciottolo

All times stated are UK

This brings to an end our live coverage of the disaster in the Mediterranean, where a huge rescue operation is continuing into the night after a boat carrying hundreds of migrants capsized.

Italian officials say 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies have been recovered, amid fears that hundreds of others have drowned.

Thanks for following our coverage. You can still follow all the latest developments

on the BBC News website.

Renzi's plea

More from Italian PM Matteo Renzi's news conference.

He says: "What we're asking for is not to be left alone. Not just in this emergency at sea, because in these situations the sea is always a horrible beast.

"This is a political issue, with a capital 'P'. It's an issue of human dignity, rather than of national security, to block this trade in human beings."

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat

tweets: "#Malta to take around 30 bodies recovered so far. #Italy navy ship to call in next few hrs. Survivors will move on to Italy for inquiry."

'Non-stopping issue'

Manu Moncada of Medecins Sans Frontieres
BBC

Manu Moncada, Medecins Sans Frontieres' operations co-ordinator for migrations, tells BBC World News TV channel that more work needs to be done in the area to deal with the problem.

He says: "This is a non-stopping issue.

"We are really asking for scaling up of search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea."

Mr Moncada adds that MSF has repeatedly urged Italy and the EU as a whole to urgently step up efforts.

Rescue operation

Yolande Knell

BBC News, Catania, Sicily

says that 20 ships and three helicopters are involved in the ongoing search and rescue operation.

More UK political reaction

Labour leader Ed Miliband says on Twitter: "Those dying in the Mediterranean are some of the poorest men, women and children in the world. We must act to stop these awful scenes."

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says the EU should "review entirely the arrangements that are in place because we just cannot, on moral grounds, have such large numbers of people dying in such regular intervals in the Mediterranean."

Meanwhile, UKIP leader Nigel Farage says the decision by Britain and France to bomb Libya had destabilised the country, leading to the refugee crisis. He adds: "I'm the one person who has said that I do think, especially for Christians in that part of the world, they now have almost nowhere to go."

'Machinery hard to get going'

Elizabeth Collett, director of the Washington-based Migration Policy Institute think tank, tells BBC World News: "The EU is a machinery that is hard to get going."

She adds that any proposals to change its border protection programmes would take time to implement.

'Comprehensive response'

Philip Hammond
PA

UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond says: "Stopping this needless suffering is a huge international challenge which demands a comprehensive, co-ordinated response.

"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 will discuss the way forward with EU foreign ministers in Luxembourg on Monday.

Italian coastguard update

The Italian coastguard

says on Twitter the situation, as of 18:30 local time (17:30 UK), remains that 28 people have been rescued and 24 bodies recovered.

'Europe as a whole must rise up'

Archbishop of Canterbury
Getty Images

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has said all European and Mediterranean countries have to take responsibility for dealing with the problem.

Speaking to BBC chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet, he said: "When people are drowning in the Mediterranean, the need, the misery that has driven them out of their own countries, is so extreme, so appalling, that Europe as a whole must rise up, and seek to do what is right.

"It will be demanding, and that's why the burden must be spread across the continent, and not taken by just one country or one area."

Maltese PM Joseph Muscat

tweets: "I will meet @matteorenzi tomorrow in Rome to coordinate way forward."

Marine traffic latest

Marinetraffic screenshot
Marinetraffic

Here is the latest data on live vessel positions in the disaster area from

MarineTraffic - to give you some sense of the scale of the search and rescue operation under way.

Do 'everything it takes'

The Italian leader adds that Europe is facing a serious problem and has to do "everything it takes" to solve it, Mr Renzi adds.

'Prevent them from leaving'

Mr Renzi says "these brothers and sisters of ours who have died in the Mediterranean Sea" cannot be saved simply by checking ships, "but by preventing them from leaving and being subject to this slave trade".

'New slave trade'

Matteo Renzi
BBC

Mr Renzi says it is not yet known how many lives have been lost in the latest disaster. He also stresses that Italy wants to call an EU meeting on the issue, describing it as a "scourge" in the continent and a "new slave trade".

He sent condolences to the families of the victims and thanked those involved in the rescue effort.

Ariadne Massa, Times of Malta

tweets: MEP @RobertaMetsola: "Two years after Lampedusa #migrant tragedy the Med remains a cemetery. EU has to act." #malta #Italy #libya"

Gerry Simpson, Human Rights Watch

tweets: "As 700 more boat #migrants die-average 15 a day in 2015-#EU should launch crisis response @HRW
http://bit.ly/1OtOJyt"

Donald Tusk, President of the European Council

tweets: "Talked to PM Muscat after tragic deaths in Mediterranean. Will continue talks w/ EU leaders, Commission & EEAS on how to alleviate situation."

Scale of journey

The BBC's Richard Bilton - who has travelled south of the Italian island of Lampedusa -

explains the scale of the journey migrants from Africa and the Middle East face each year.

'Spur into action'

The Economist asks why migrants crossing the Mediterranean are "dying this year at an unprecedented rate" - and what can be done.

It says: "The European Union's response so far has been remarkably languid. The latest disaster may at last spur it into action."

Richard Galpin

BBC World Affairs correspondent

says: "A European Commission official confirmed to me that one idea which has been suggested as they draw up plans for a new comprehensive migration policy is to set up camps in North Africa where migrants can be assessed to see if they have a legitimate claim for asylum.

"At the moment all this is done in EU countries after the migrants arrive from North Africa.

"The official said several EU member states had suggested this but there had been no decision on it so far."

More from the media

The Telegraph has written about

the hunt for the people-trafficking gangs who are responsible for sending people across the Mediterranean - and often to their deaths.

Survivors on merchant ship

Italy's Ansa news agency reports that 22 of the survivors are now on board the Portuguese merchant ship King Jacob that was in the area when the boat capsized (See 15:34 entry).

Another six survivors are on Italy's Gregoretti coastguard ship, a Navy vessel, and a merchant boat.

BBC's Tom Donkin

tweets: "Hard to verify but if we add victims from last night to those who died since the start of 2015 - total is around 1,600."

'Insufficient' operation

Laurens Jolles, UNHCR's representative for Southern Europe, tells APTN television that the current EU border patrol operation is insufficient.

"The [Italian] coastguard with this small capacity that they have are doing whatever they can to rescue lives, going very very close to Libya, if necessary, and working non-stop day and night," he says.

"But it is clear that they need help... there has to be something else put in place in the European context and that really needs to happen."

Media round up

Elsewhere in the media, the Guardian has an analysis piece on what it calls

Europe's worsening migrant crisis.

Richard Galpin

BBC World Affairs correspondent

says: "It is estimated 1,500 migrants have died already this year making the crossing from North Africa to the shores of Europe - most of them drowning over the past week.

"The warmer weather is encouraging much larger numbers to take to the sea."

Katya Adler

BBC Europe editor

tweets: "After accusations of complacency, the #EU Commission is rushing out press releases on the migrant tragedy in the #Mediterranean."

Rescue vessel

King Jacob Portuguese cargo vessel
AP

This is an image taken earlier this week of the King Jacob Portuguese cargo vessel, the first ship to arrive near the migrant boat before it capsized.

Author's view

The Sicilian writer Andrea Camilleri - author of the popular Montalbano detective novels -

tweets (in Italian): "Right now, we don't need the populism of Beppe Grillo, Giorgia Meloni and Matteo Salvini, but the help of the EU."

Duty and responsibility

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says the EU must tackle such tragedies without delay.

"We need to save human lives all together, as all together we need to protect our borders and to fight the trafficking of human beings.

"Every single day, we have the duty to save human lives, sharing among all the 28 this duty and a responsibility that for too long has been left only to the southern countries."

'Naval blockade'

The leader of Italy's anti-immigrant Northern League party, Matteo Salvini, calls for a naval blockade of the coast of Libya.

Mr Salvini writes on his Facebook page: "The friends of Mare Nostrum have blood on their hands... [We need] an immediate naval blockade of the Libyan coast!"

First images

These are the first images to be published of the search and rescue operation, and were released by Italy's coastguard service.

A video grab released by the Italian Coast Guards (Guardia Costiera) on April 19, 2015 showing an helicopter and a ship take part in a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily
AFP/Getty Images
A video grab released by the Italian Coast Guards (Guardia Costiera) on April 19, 2015 showing an helicopter and a ship take part in a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily
AFP/Getty Images
A video grab released by the Italian Coast Guards (Guardia Costiera) on April 19, 2015 showing an helicopter and a ship take part in a rescue operation off the coast of Sicily
AFP/Getty Images

Latest figures

Here is the latest information we have so far. At least 650 migrants are feared to have drowned after their boat capsized off the coast of Libya, with some reports saying about 50 people have been rescued.

'Never again'

Federica Mogherini, EU foreign policy chief, said the spate of migrant boat sinkings was "unacceptable".

She said: "We have said too many times 'never again'. Now is time for the European Union as such to tackle these tragedies without delay."

Italy's efforts

Coastguards co-ordinate the search for Libyan migrants in Rome - April 19, 2015
AP
Coastguards co-ordinate the search for Libyan migrants in Rome - April 19, 2015
AP

Even though the search and rescue operation is taking place some 17 miles (27 kilometres) from Libya's coastline, Italy's coastguard is co-ordinating the efforts from its headquarters in Rome. Maltese and Italian ships, as well as merchant vessels, are also taking part in the search effort.

'The reality is stark'

More on the emergency meeting of ministers called by the European Union. The European Commission said foreign and interior ministers would be involved. A date is yet to be set for the meeting.

It said in a statement: "The reality is stark and our actions must therefore be bold. These are human lives at stake, and the European Union as a whole has a moral and humanitarian obligation to act."

Hazardous journeys

The BBC's James Reynolds reported this week on the plight of migrants making highly-dangerous journeys to Italy. You can see his report

here.

Mark Micallef, chief journalist at the Times of Malta

tweets: "Just for the record today's #migrant tragedy will be the worst tragedy at sea since WWII. #NoMoreDeathInTheMed."