Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi blamed the unscrupulous racketeers who use ships that are not seaworthy for smuggling migrants.
In what is being called one of the worst disasters ever in Europe involving transportation of migrants, a boat carrying illegal migrants capsized in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, about 60 miles off Lampedusa, an Italian island, late Saturday night. The death toll has been roughly put at 650, but that number is expected to be higher, as more bodies are expected to be recovered. The majority of the passengers seem to have comprised of people from Libya, being illegally transported into Italy.
The vessel, just 20 meters in length, is estimated to have toppled over when passengers thronged to one side of the boat, on seeing the approach of a Portuguese container ship. Eyewitnesses also stated that there was a large number of passengers locked up in the cargo hold at the time.
Although there was active involvement by the Italian Coastguard, most of the European Union (EU) countries, including Britain are not in favor of getting actively involved in search-and-rescue operations for vessels containing illegal migrants in the area and have kept away from rescue operations this time. The EU countries claim that actively participating in search-and-rescue operations would serve as an incentive for human traffickers to continue their operations with renewed vigor.
Commenting on the tragedy, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi blamed the unscrupulous racketeers who use ships that are not seaworthy for smuggling migrants – they are “the slave drivers of the 21st century”, he said.
Tragedies like this recent one have become a regular feature with the influx of migrants into Europe. It has been estimated that roughly 35,000 asylum seekers and migrants have entered Europe this year alone. According to estimates by humanitarian groups, at least 900 migrants have already perished this year, compared with just 90, last year at this time.