As the number of migrants seeking refuge in Europe rises, so does the number of those who do not survive the journey. So far, the 1,750 migrants who have died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea in 2015 are more than 30 times the 56 people who perished during the same period in 2014, the International Organization for Migration said Tuesday. At that pace, this year's death toll seems poised to soon outstrip the total of 3,279 migrants who died in 2014 trying to cross the sea, the agency said.
Most recently, roughly 800 migrants are feared dead after a ship smuggling people from Libya to Italy sank Saturday, and the Italian coast guard rescued more than 600 migrants Monday from rubber dinghies. So far, 28 survivors have been found from Saturday's sinking. Most of them came from sub-Saharan Africa, including Mali, Ivory Coast and Eritrea, the IOM reported.
This year has seen a spike in the number of migrants to Europe fleeing a broader range of countries -- including Bangladesh, Syria and Iraq -- than in previous years. This spring, more people are attempting to cross the sea from ports in North Africa, namely Libya, which has been wrought with political instability. The New York Times reported that 11,000 people had been rescued on such trips during the first 17 days of April.
Italy, which has struggled to shoulder the burden of rescuing migrants fleeing poverty and war in their homelands, has appealed to the European Union for help, with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi saying, “The new slave traders of the 21st century must not believe that Europe considers this one of the least important issues on its agenda.”
Human traffickers have been known to charge as much as $8,600 per person to smuggle migrants across the sea to a new life in Europe, CNN has reported. “We need to fight the organizations that are trafficking and smuggling people, so that we can prevent desperate people from leaving in desperate conditions,” Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, told CNN.