Migrants fleeing war in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, among other countries, have encountered resistance at European borders, where many face danger and an uncertain future. The number of people attempting the dangerous central Mediterranean crossing from Libya to Italy has risen since the same time last year, with more than 43,000 people recorded so far in 2017, as of the end of May.
In an attempt to slow the flow of migrants, Italy recently signed a deal with Libya, Chad and Niger outlining a plan to increase border controls and add new reception centers in the African nations, which are key transit points for migrants heading to Italy. MOAS is a Malta based NGO dedicated to providing professional search-and-rescue assistance to refugees and migrants in distress at sea. Since the start of 2017, MOAS has rescued and assisted 3,572 people and is currently patrolling and running rescue operations in international waters off the coast of Libya.
Last year, a record 4,579 migrants drowned on the Libya-to-Italy Mediterranean Sea smuggling route, prompting increased international efforts to prevent fatalities. But these rescue efforts may be emboldening smugglers to further overload boats, the European Union’s border and coast guard chief said.