by Allanah Leahy – EM TV Online
As many as 900 people are feared dead, following the capsizing of a migrant boat travelling from the north coast of Africa to Europe on Sunday.
The incident is a shock to Europe, where the scaling down of naval operations last year has seemingly failed to reduce numbers, while increasing the risks for migrants.
Twenty-seven of the confirmed 28 survivors were taken to Catania in Sicily yesterday evening. The vessel reportedly overturned and sank when migrants rushed to one side of the vessel, attempting to attract attention from a passing ship.
One of the survivors, a Bangladeshi man, told investigators that the boat was carrying around 950 people, including 250 women and 50 children, although figures are yet to be confirmed.
Malta Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that 900 may have died, which is the highest death toll in recent times among migrants who are trafficked in the tens of thousands across the Mediterranean.
In prevention of future tragedies in the Mediterranean, as well as human trafficking, the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini announced a 10-point plan focused on strengthened border protection and increased monitoring and coverage at sea.
“In particular, I’m thinking of strengthening our presence in Niger where we already have a mission, EUCAP Sahel, that can be strengthened and that can solve the crucial element of one of the ways of access to Libya through its southern border,” she said.
European officials have been struggling for a humane solution to migrants travelling from Africa and Asia to Europe by sea, without encouraging more to leave.
“If we do not act now, the crisis will take dangerous proportions in the months to come. Europe needs to respond united to this challenge that is related to the core values of the union,” said EU Migration Commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos.
If the toll from Sunday’s tragedy is confirmed, as many as 1,800 migrants have died since the start of this year while attempting to cross the Mediterranean, while 21,000 made the voyage successfully.
Italian police have reportedly arrested two suspected traffickers from the group of survivors.