The exodus of immigrants traveling across the Mediterranean in the hopes of making it to Europe continues, as more tragedies and arrests were made this week off the coast of Italy. With the discontinuation of the Italian government’s rescue operation Mare Nostrum and the ever-increasing influx of immigrants, the rescue missions are becoming riskier for the thousands of people arriving in Sicily every year.
On Wednesday March 4 the Italian coast guard, part of the EU rescue initiative Triton, rescued hundreds of these migrants about 80 kilometers off the Libyan coast. Ten people were found dead when their rubber dinghy capsized in the strait of Sicily. This tragedy comes after the Italian coast guard, Tunisian navy, and some merchant ships, conducted seven different rescue operations (for a separate incident) on Tuesday March 3 saving about 1,000 migrants. According to authorities, these migrants came from Tunisia, Libya, the Palestinian territories, and Syria. These migrants are now being held in refugee camps in Italy.
Media commentary about these episodes is currently focused on the smugglers promising voyages to Europe for up to 2,000 Euros. “Very recently, they (the migrants) have in fact said that in Libya traffickers asked them to jump on the boat although they saw that the weather conditions were really terrible and, therefore, they also thought that this would have caused problems in their journey towards Italy,” said Carlotta Bellini (Euronews.com), “but the traffickers actually were armed and threatened them to jump on the boat.” Italian police have arrested a 20 year old Senegalese man in connection with the latest tragedy that killed 10 people. According to a police report, he admitted to being hired in Libya to sail a dinghy to Italy. He is currently being held in prison on charges of trafficking illegal immigrants.
This stark increase in immigration has caused not only Italians, but other members of the European Union, to demand action in the form of strategies and policies to handle the illegal immigration crisis. Frans Timmermans, the European commissioner for Fundamental Rights announced on Wednesday March 4 through his twitter page, that a full EU migration strategy would be communicated by May.