Migrant Marine Rescue Season
"It is still not entirely clear what happened, but they died a horrible death."They've revved up the hope-and-pray machinery again, with the presence of warmer weather and more tranquil sea conditions. The urgent desire to continue harvesting the fears and aspirations of haven-seekers and migrant-opportunists eager to escape poverty, oppression, violence and degradation in their countries of origin for the greener pasture of civilized Europe has persuaded human smugglers that they've bided their time for long enough.
"[Water and fuel had undoubtedly mixed together and fumes were generated that] might have been enough for them to lose consciousness."
Jens Pagotto, head, Doctors Without Borders search-and-rescue operations
Monday marked the advent of 240,884 migrants having paid smugglers exorbitant fees to ferry them by sea into Europe, according to the records maintained by the International Organization for Migration. Their record-keeping also reveals that almost three thousand of those hopeful migrants have died in the Mediterranean through 2016.
The hapless victims of whom Mr. Pagotto spoke were those of 22 migrants mostly women, who had hoped to arrive in Sicilian waters whom Doctors Without Borders, patrolling the central Mediterranean, discovered. The bodies lay at the bottom of one of two rubber dinghies found floating off the Libyan coast. Taking the two dinghies in hand, over 200 people, 50 children among them, were rescued and brought to Italy.
Their discovery marks a 'first', a rather ghastly and inglorious one, where already the grim spectacle of deaths at sea have overtaken this early in the season what in previous years' counts took until fall to achieve in lost lives. North Africans are leaving in greater numbers, desperate to reach Europe, and smugglers have accordingly mustered greater resources of the usual unseaworthy vessels to get them there, dead or alive.
With the moderately 'safer' route from Turkey across the Aegean Sea to Greek islands having been diminished in opportunity reflecting the Turkish government's agreement with the European Union in exchange for Turkish favours that some might interpret as blackmail, the longer and more dangerously storm-tossed route across the Mediterranean to Italy has resurged.
Up to 135,000 economic migrants have attempted to find asylum in Italy in 2016, most hoping to forge on to other destinations further in Europe, like Germany or the Scandinavian countries where rumour has it that they will be welcomed so enthusiastically that all their cares and concerns will be resolved as economic opportunities open wide for their aspirations to be fulfilled.
|A woman looks out of the porthole from aboard the Aquarius rescue vessel after arriving in Sicily June 25 with more than 600 migrants aboard the ship rescued by SOS Mediterranee and the medical aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). | AP|