International Justice

CJ354 Endicott College

Over 700 feared dead in the latest Mediterranean crossing tragedy for migrants


Rescue efforts lead by the Italian Coast Guard are underway, but speculations put the potential number dead at over 700 in what may be deemed as “the worst disaster yet involving migrants being smuggled to Europe,” The Guardian. The accident proportedly happened when the migrants spotted a merchant ship and rushed to signal it for rescue, upsetting the balance of the boat.

This is the latest in a series of tragedies involving migrants hoping to get to Europe. A similar accident occurred earlier this week, with the number of dead estimated at 400. Many of the migrants, despite the odds against them, view inflatable boats as their only option. They deem their life at home as a place without security, equality or freedom, and that a trip across the ocean (even if it means death) better than staying put. The grueling trip often entails lack of food and water, and many only survive after being rescued by the coast guard after getting lost.

Migrants even turn against one another once on board. Apparently, 12 Christians were thrown overboard by 15 Muslim passengers after a fight broke out between them. This was not the fist case of a fight the ended in the death of passengers. Unaccompanied children also number among migrants who seek a better life in Europe. They are as much as 6% of the total 22, 507 who have safely arrived on European shores this year.

While many look to the to the smugglers as the party to blame, they put forth the they do their best to make the journey worthwhile, and do not force people to come aboard. Instead, people are so desperate for a new life that they will risk the trip, even when they know that there are no safety precautions. The Pope has already called on the international community for help in response to the latest tragedy, will the international community respond with solidarity or watch the situation unfold as bystanders?


2 responses to “Over 700 feared dead in the latest Mediterranean crossing tragedy for migrants

  1. CRuj April 19, 2015 at 11:12 pm

    According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the latest sinking could amount to the greatest loss of life during a migrant crossing to Europe. Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi calls the trafficking of migrant the “new slave trade.” He has called for the European Union to act on sea migration after the latest deadly sinking of a boat in the Mediterranean, asking for a summit on the issue. He accused that trafficking was a big issue for the continent and shows the lack of European solidarity.

    Recently a boat with up to 700 migrants crashed, leaving only 28 survivors to be rescued. This year alone it is feared that up to 1500 migrants have drowned.

    The political crisis in Libya has given human smugglers an opportunity to increase human trafficking. Smugglers use the boats to carry migrants who are fleeing violence and/or economic crisis in Africa and the Middle East.

    Mr. Renzi blames Libya for the “21st Century slavery” problem. He called out Libya as the main issue, blaming that it is the starting point for about 90% of the migrants reaching Italy by sea. The issue is not having more rescue boats but rather stopping the boats from departing. By calling this issue of human trafficking slavery, Renzi added, “It is unthinkable that in the face of such a tragedy, there isn’t the feeling of solidarity which Europe has shown in other instances.”

    The world’s leaders, such as the Presidents, prime ministers, and the Pope, have all described their sympathies for the massive loss of life and called for something to stop it quickly. “French President Francois Hollande called for ‘more boats, more over flights and a more intense battle against people trafficking’, while Maltese PM Joseph Muscat said Europe and the international community would be judged by history if they continued to ‘turn a blind eye’ to the plight of migrants.”

    The question now lies with the EU. Will the statements of these leaders cause the EU to tackle their migrant crisis? Will the EU issue more provisions of more ships capable of search and rescue?

    There are deep divisions between the 28 EU member states. Last year when Italy stopped its search-and-rescue groups larger divisions were increased. Italian politicians have called for a naval blockade but Renzi argued that this would only increase smuggling, as there would be an increase in ships to rescue migrants.

    “Recent Mediterranean migrant disasters:
    Oct 2013: More than 360 people, mostly Eritreans and Somalis, die as their boat sinks off Lampedusa.
    Sept 2014: At least 300 migrants drown off Malta when people smugglers ram a boat after its occupants refuse to move to a smaller one. Survivors said it was “mass murder”.
    Feb 2015: At least 300 migrants feared drowned as four dinghies get into trouble after leaving Libyan coast in bad weather.
    April 12, 2015: Some 400 migrants feared drowned after their vessel capsizes off Libya.
    April 19, 2015: About 650 migrants feared drowned as boat capsizes in Libyan waters south of Lampedusa.”

  2. lsundstr April 20, 2015 at 11:04 am

    Italian officials reported on Monday morning that the death toll from last weekend’s sinking of a fishing vessel transporting migrants across the Mediterranean, could include more than 950 casualties including the already confirmed 700 deaths reported on Sunday. This has prompted the European Union to convene an emergency meeting in Luxembourg to discuss how to respond to this issue. EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini stated, “With this latest tragedy…we have no more excuses, the EU has no more excuses, the member states have no more excuses…The main issue here is to build a common sense of European responsibility, knowing that there is no easy solution.” The Italian coastguard has pledged to continue search and rescue operations for as long as they believe there is a possibility of finding survivors, and similarly, commercial vessels and cargo ships (which helped to save more then 40,000 migrants last year) have also been asked to assist. The EU’s decision to initiate discussions regarding this issue is also likely due to increased criticism from international actors, condemning their lack of involvement and general reluctance in dealing with the situation. The European Union is torn between pressures from the global community to intervene and protect these migrants, and those of many EU member states that are above all interested in protecting their national interests and immigration policies. While the EU’s efforts to discuss this problem in Luxembourg show some promise towards reaching an appropriate solution, it will be interesting to see whether the EU proceeds in favor of human rights law and the international community, or in the interests of their member states.

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