An estimated 250 refugees fleeing war and impoverishment are feared to have drowned on Thursday trying to cross the Mediterranean in the hopes of seeking asylum in Europe, an aid organization reported.
On Thursday, Proactiva Open Arms — a Spanish NGO dedicated to providing rescue services to the thousands of refugees forced to make the dangerous crossing — reported that they discovered two capsized boats off the coast of Libya, each with a capacity of over 100 people.
“There is news we would rather not give. There are days when we confront death, not life. Today is one of them,” the group said in a statement, adding they had recovered five bodies.
“It is a punch of reality, of the suffering here which is invisible in Europe,” the group said. “In each of the boats surely more than a hundred people traveled whose lives have been swallowed by the Mediterranean mass grave and the shame of the policies that allow it to happen. If the victims were European, they would fill headlines, but they are victims invisible to their interests.”
According to the International Office of Migration, the number of refugees attempting to make the treacherous crossing from Libya to Italy has spiked in the past three months after the European Union signed a deal with Turkey to cut off the safer migration route between Turkey and Greece.
“We have yet to complete March, and we are already racing at a pace of arrivals that has exceeded anything we’ve seen before in the Mediterranean,” said Joel Millman, a spokesperson for the IOM.
“This is typical of spring, getting very busy, but it’s not typical to have the numbers be so high this early and the corresponding deaths that go with it.”
Before Thursday the IOM estimated that 559 people had died or gone missing trying to reach Italy so far this year. Last year, an estimated 5,000 people died trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya.
The group told DW that in the past year the composition of those attempting to make the sea crossing to Italy has changed, with most refugees now coming from Guinea, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Bangladesh, Gambia and Senegal.