A perfect storm: the failure of European policies in the central Mediterranean

6 Jul 2017

A humanitarian crisis continues to unfold in the central Mediterranean as thousands of people die at sea in the desperate attempt to reach safety or a better life in Europe. In the first half of 2017 73,000 refugees and migrants reached Italy by sea: 14% more than in the same period the previous year. Around 2000 have lost their lives, bringing the mortality rate this year to 2.7%. This represents a three-fold increase over the second half of 2015, when EU-led search and rescue efforts were at their height. The immediate cause for the rising death toll is that the conditions in which refugees and migrants have been made to cross the sea have deteriorated. Partly in response to EU-led efforts to disrupt their activities, smugglers in Libya have been loading more people onto boats of a lesser quality, mostly inflatable rubber ones, with insufficient fuel, no lifejackets or other safety features, and often with no means to call for help, such as a satellite phone. These boats have virtually no chance of reaching European coasts by themselves and they are in need of rescue from the moment they depart.

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