Three shipwrecks in the Mediterranean Sea have caused at least 700 fatalities since Wednesday. The migrants were reportedly trying to cross Libya towards Italy, as stated by the U.N. Refugee Agency.

At least 14,000 migrants were saved over the course of two weeks.

Over 700 fatalities in the Mediterranean
Migrants are seen on a sinking ship before a rescue operation by Italian navy ships arrived. Credit: Marina Military

A developing migration crisis

This week’s first shipwreck occurred on Wednesday, as a fishing boat carrying hundreds of people toppled over as they tried to reach an incoming rescue ship, causing the vessel to fall over its side. Many fell into the sea whereas others were still trapped inside the boat. Although authorities were able to save many of the sinking migrants, hundreds are still missing, presumably because they drowned.

On Thursday, a second shipwreck occurred. At least 500 people are presumed dead from it, as it was another fishing boat that sunk. On this occasion, the boat was overburdened, and it started to sink. As water filled the ship, its passengers tried to keep it afloat for six hours, until they saw that it was not possible. Another boat was towing it because it ran out of fuel, but the rope had to be cut in order, so the second boat didn’t sink as well. When the tense rope was cut, as the commander of the ship ordered, it whipped back and killed a woman by slashing her neck. Afterward, the Italian Coast Guard reported having found 45 dead migrants from a different shipwreck, expected to be of Libyan origin.

Thursday’s events were captured in a series of horrifying photographs.

The riptides of political conflicts

Survivors were taken to the Italian city of Taranto, and to Pozzallo, in Sicily. Most migrants aim for the Italian isles as they escape the Libyan civil war. The Libyan civil war is one of the most deadly conflicts of the past years, as it has forced the migration of thousands of people, including non-Libyans. The war is carried on by at least six different parties, where each one has an important piece of territory that the democratically-elected Council of Deputies claims as its rightful ownership.

Regarding the shipwrecks, numbers are uncertain due to the lack of verifiable records. Authorities have to rely on witnesses’ testimonies to assess the events and then draft an estimate of how many people were in each shipwreck.

The number of migrant casualties caused by shipwrecks in the Mediterranean has been dramatically increasing since last year, where the number reached over 4,000 reported deaths.

Only this week, Italian authorities estimate that at least 1,200 deaths took place, including women and children. In comparison, last week, Italian authorities were able to rescue 4,000 migrants. The International Organization for Migration estimates that at least 200,000 migrants have been able to cross the Mediterranean Sea successfully.

This upcoming season, authorities expect an increased number of migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean sea. Summer is the best time to sail, as waters are calmer and the weather is mostly apt for sailing.

Source: New York Times