More than 700 migrants are feared dead in three Mediterranean shipwrecks near Italy in the last few days as they tried to reach Europe in unseaworthy smuggling boats, the UN refugee agency said on Sunday.

UNHCR spokeswoman Carlotta Sami said an estimated 100 people are missing from a boat which capsized on Wednesday. The Italian navy took pictures of that capsizing even as it rushed to rescue all those thrown into the sea from the vessel.

She said about 550 others are missing from a smuggling boat that capsized on Thursday morning after leaving the western Libyan port of Sabratha a day earlier.

Taking advantage of calm conditions, smugglers in Libya send out more and more migrants toward Italy, often on unseaworthy vessels. Drowning deaths are inevitable, even as Italian Coast Guard and Navy ships race to answer distress calls. Last year, more than 3,700 migrants died in the Mediterranean, a figure that could be surpassed this year.

In a statement on Sunday, the United Nations Children’s Fund said many of the migrants who drowned in the past week were believed to be unaccompanied adolescents.

The grisly week also underscored the complex problem that the refugee crisis poses for Europe. The Continent’s leaders, facing an anti-immigrant backlash in many countries, have signed a controversial deal with Turkey that so far has sharply reduced the migrant flow into Greece; last year, roughly one million people marched through the Balkans toward Germany.

Yet closing the Greek route has shifted attention to the longer, more dangerous sea route from Libya to Italy. As of Wednesday, roughly 41,000 migrants had been rescued at sea after leaving Libya, nearly the same number from the same period last year, according to the United Nations and the International Organization for Migration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.