There is a growing graveyard of African migrants in the Mediterranean Sea that the world is ignoring. This past weekend another 700 African migrants were added to the unknown number of victims that has been called the worst maritime loss of life since World War II. A fishing vessel packed with the African migrants left the coast of Libya with an estimated 950 people aboard who were trying to escape war and poverty in their home countries. The overloaded vessel overturned when passengers on board the vessel rushed to one side of the ship when a rescue boat was sighted. According to passengers, there were an estimated 300 people locked in the cargo hold of the vessel. Only 28 people were rescued from the capsized vessel.
This is the second vessel in a week that has sunk, last week another 400 African migrants drowned when the boat they were on sank. According to Italian and UN officials, the number of people making the transit from Africa to Europe across the Mediterranean Sea is up 50 percent. Last month alone more than 10,000 people were rescued at sea, making this a true humanitarian crisis. But the countries of Europe seem to be deliberately ignoring the loss of life and have in fact scaled back rescue operations. The rationale for this action is the belief that more people will attempt the dangerous crossing if they think there is a good chance of being rescued. The vast majority of rescue operations and placement of these African migrants has fallen on the Italian government whose pleas for help to the other members of the European Union have fallen on deaf ears.
Some have even called this tragedy a “new slave trade” facilitated by a growing number of human traffickers. The prime minister of the tiny island nation of Malta stated “A tragedy is unfolding in the Mediterranean and, if the EU and the world continue to close their eyes, it will be judged in the harshest terms as it was judged in the past when it closed its eyes to genocides.”
Last year, more than 100,000 African migrants were rescued at sea, and with the continued frequency of these perilous journeys, this number will surely rise in 2015.