European immigration crisis emphasized by shipwreck

By: Richard Meyer ~Copy Editor~

Europe faces a migrant crisis as people from the Middle East and North Africa attempt to flee their home countries with the hope of escaping the chaos and poverty. The crisis made international headlines on April 18 when a boat carrying more than 900 migrants capsized in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya.

Survivors of a capsized migrant ship line up after arriving at the southern Italian port of Corigliano on April 15. More than 800 migrants are feared dead after another ship sank off the coast of Libya on April 18.

The boat, described to be no more than 70 feet long, was being sailed by human smugglers who planned to help the migrants cross European borders. As of April 20, only 28 survivors have been found, and at least 24 have been confirmed dead. The Italian Coastguard is continuing to look for any other survivors.

To date, more than 100,000 immigrants have been rescued from other boat accidents and more than 200,000 have successfully entered Europe. To combat the immigrant crisis, Italy revoked its “Mare Nostrum” policy on Oct. 31, 2014.

The policy funded search and rescue operations by Italy’s navy for migrants that attempted to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Italy revoked the policy, claiming that it was too expensive without the help of other European countries. Mare Nostrum was replaced by Operation Triton, an operation led by the European Union (EU) with the sole purpose of border control. Operation Triton has about one-third of the funding of Mare Nostrum, resulting in much fewer rescues.

Many European leaders have criticized Italy’s attempts to employ programs helping migrants, calling them “an unintended ‘pull factor,’ encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths.” Italy has criticized the EU for not being more involved in helping with the immigrant crisis. The EU seeks to draft a solution proposal in the next month that will prevent people from trying to enter Europe illegally.

“We need to save human lives all together, as all together we need to protect our borders and to fight the trafficking of human beings,” EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said. “We must build a common sense of European responsibility … knowing that there is no easy solution, no magic solution.”

The boat’s captain, Tunisian Mohammed Ali Malek, along with crew member, Mahmud Bikhit from Syria, have been arrested and likely will be charged with illegal migration and multiple homicide.