The Current

Europe's migrant crisis intensifies - again - with more drownings off the coast of Italy

Last week, an estimated 15,000 people have made the journey to Italy from North Africa, 880 of whom died in the crossing.
People jump out of a boat right before it overturns off the Libyan coast, Wednesday, May 25, 2016. The Italian navy says it has recovered 7 bodies from the overturned migrant ship off the coast of Libya. Another 500 migrants who on board were rescued safely. (Marina Militare/Associated Press)

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Over the course of three days, it is estimated more than 880 people died in Mediterranean Sea shipwrecks as migrants tried desperately to reach Europe in unseaworthy smuggling boats.

 An estimated 15,000 people have made the journey to Italy from North Africa last week alone.

The Italian coast guard calls this the "busy season," as warm temperatures encourage desperate migrants to attempt the crossing to Europe.

With migrant crossings on the Mediterranean escalating, several NGOs say the EU needs to improve safety measures for those making the journey. 

Italy is pushing a plan to introduce NATO naval patrols off Libyan shores.

Antonella Sferrazza, a freelance reporter with GRN in Palermo, is skeptical this plan will stop migrants from crossing.  "Accordingly to analysts, the worst is yet to come." 

According to the United Nations Agency, an average of 1,000 unaccompanied children a month arrive in Italy [ . . . ] but the most tragic figure is that many of them vanish.- Antonella Sferrazza,  freelance reporter with GRN

Sferrazza  explains many migrant children in Italy try to escape the authorities to join their families in other European countries, but along the high-risk journey, some end up in circumstances of sexual exploitation.

A child holds a doll as he sits in a coach after disembarking from the Italian Navy vessel Vega at the Reggio Calabria harbour, southern Italy, May 29, 2016. REUTERS/ Antonio Parrinello - RTX2EPZ5 (Antonio Parrinello/Reuters)

On The Current, Sebastian Stein, a Medicins Sans Frontieres field coordinator at the frontlines for search-and-rescue operations, describes the conditions of the countries migrants are fleeing, the risky measures they are taking to cross the Mediterranean, and elaborates on the experience of witnessing this crisis firsthand. 

It is fundamentally clear to me every one of those [migrants] is just like me. It rips my heart apart to come home to Europe and see how policy makers are treating this issue like a number game.- Sebastian Stein, an MSF field coordinator

Federico Soda, the director of the International Organization for Migration, thinks Europe can easily absorb the influx of migrants if all EU countries help out. To that end, he argues for the need of an asylum policy for all EU countries, and thinks Europe should take a unified approach to migrant issues broadly, not just with respect refugees. 

We need to keep the numbers in perspective. 150,000 people reached Italy last year. That is not a number that should overwhelm 28 member states as wealthy as the EU.-Federico Soda, director of the International Organization for Migration

  • Antonella Sferrazza is a freelance reporter with GRN.
  • Sebastian Stein is an MSF field coordinator for search and rescue operations. 
  • Federico Soda is the Director of the International Organization for Migration.

The segment was produced by The Current's Pacinthe Mattar, Lara O'Brien, and Idella Sturino