According to officials, more than 650 migrants are feared to have drowned in the Mediterranean in two separate incidents as human smugglers deliberately ram and capsize the boats they were in. In order for refugees to safely reach Europe, humanitarian organizations around the world are calling asking that legal avenues be opened up.
Officials stated that this is the second disaster that claimed up to 160 lives off the Libya coast. In the first incident, survivors of the sinking vessels told International Organization for Migration (IOM) officials that about 500 people were on a sailing vessel going from the coast of Egypt to Malta last week. Unfortunately, the majority of those individuals drowned.
Two Palestinians who were aboard that fated vessel claimed they spent a full day just floating in the sea before a Panama-flagged merchant vessel 300 miles from Malta picked them up. Those two people were taken to Sicily’s port of Pozzallo, where they recounted the story. Associated with that same attack, nine additional people survived and picked up by rescue vessels from Malta and Greece.
While not yet confirmed, the two Palestinians are believed to have been fleeing the war torn region of Gaza. Included in the 500 lost lives were multiple small children, as well as unaccompanied minors. Apparently, human traffickers responsible for the crossing had ordered the refugees to move to another smaller boat in mid sea but they refused.
With this, a huge fight broke out, prompting the traffickers in the smaller vessel to ram the migrant’s vessel, forcing it to capsize. At this time, law enforcement officials are investigating the incident and if found to be true, it would be the worst tragedy that occurred in the Mediterranean in years.
As noted by a representative of IOM, it appears this was an intentional act opposed to a horrible accident. If so, this means the human traffickers that committed mass murder obviously have no respect for human life. One young boy aboard the capsized vessel was from Egypt who was excited to make money in England to help pay for his father’s heart surgery. Sadly, he drowned after losing grip of the buoy he clung to due to exposure and hypothermia.
In the second incident, over 160 African migrants heading for Italy on an overcrowded vessel are believed dead after it capsized off the coat of Libya. Libyan officials have since recovered dozens of bodies, which includes both women and children. So far, only 36 people have been rescued although a search effort is still underway.
Many believe these two cases are connected to other tragedies in the Mediterranean as wars in Iraq and Syria, along with poverty in West Africa and the Horn of Africa and chaos in Libya rage on. Just since October 2013, more than 100,000 boat people have been rescued by Italy in a widespread humanitarian effort they call Mare Nostrum, translated to “Our Sea”.