Hundreds of people were feared dead on Sunday after a ship crowded with migrants capsized and sank in the Mediterranean, as the authorities described a grisly scene of bodies floating and submerging in the warm waters, with the majority of the dead apparently trapped in the ship at the bottom of the sea.
The fatal shipwreck may prove to be the Mediterranean’s deadliest migrant disaster ever and is only the latest tragedy in Europe’s migration crisis. Warmer spring weather has unleashed a torrent of smuggler boats, mostly from Libya, bearing migrants and refugees from the Middle East and Africa, often fleeing war and poverty for a foothold in Europe.
Death at sea has become a grimly common occurrence: Even before this weekend’s sinking, humanitarian groups estimated that 900 migrants had already died this year, compared with 90 during the same period a year ago. That figure could rise sharply, as officials estimate that 700 people may have drowned in the weekend disaster.BBC News reported today that Italian authorities had arrested the Tunisian captain of the ship, along with his Syrian first mate. They were among the few survivors.
The arrests come after the EU set out a package of measures to try to ease the migrant crisis in the Mediterranean. Search and rescue operations will be stepped up and there will be a campaign to destroy traffickers' boats.At the same time, BBC News noted that there other rescues yesterday, one by Italians and another by Greeks. Cutting down on the supply of ships may help, although it is likely also to cause even more dangerous journeys, since the supply of people who would like to get to Europe is growing in tandem with violence in the region. The US State Department's Humanitarian Information Unit released a map last week detailing where the 2.7 million internally displaced persons in Iraq are estimated to be living. The problem is getting worse, not better.