As humanitarian groups plead with European officials to allow refugees safe passage—and as Europe closes its borders to asylum seekers—more and more people are risking their lives in the treacherous sea crossing from North Africa to Europe, with disastrous results.
The Italian Coast guard announced Wednesday morning that a staggering 5,600 migrants had been rescued from treacherous waters off the coast of Libya in only the last 48 hours—straining all search and rescue agencies in the region to absolute capacity.
On Tuesday alone, 3,000 asylum seekers were rescued in 23 separate operations.
The Italian navy reported on Wednesday afternoon that a boat holding 590 migrants had capsized in the Mediterranean, killing 7. The rescue operation is ongoing.
ABC Australia reports on the enormous scale of the rescue operations:
“In video footage taken by the Italian coast guard, rescuers can be seen approaching the old wooden ship carrying mostly sub-Saharan African men pleading for ‘water, water, water’ and gesturing with their hands for something to drink,” reports the Telegraph.
Humanitarian groups have deeply criticized European officials for the controversial EU-Turkey deal that closes the land route for refugees traveling from the Middle East, arguing that it will cause more migrants to attempt the more dangerous route across the Mediterranean.
As summer approaches, more and more refugees are already risking the dangerous sea crossing from Libya to Europe.
Migrants moving through Libya, which has descended into lawlessness since the U.S.-backed NATO intervention in 2011, are subjected to the abuse of human traffickers operating in a “brutal black market,” as the Telegraph writes.
This week’s rescues bring the number of migrants saved in Mediterranean waters to 37,000 so far this year.
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