The same tragic drowning scenario at the Mediterranean Sea keeps recurring as the illegal migrant flow continues unabated from sub-Saharan Africa to Libya, where they take perilous journeys using dilapidated dinghies to get into Europe but at a price. On Wednesday, the Italian navy captured the chilling images of a heavily overcrowded boat overturning off Libya, leaving at least five people dead. The navy said 562 people had been pulled to safety.
The same details and scenario — the fishing vessel, full of people, tipping over as migrants rush to one side of the boat when they spot a rescue ship. This sums up frequent mistakes that lead to many disasters in the Mediterranean. But quite strangely, unscrupulous crews of these old vessels always emerge safe after charging victims hefty fees and leave them to their fate.
Sadly, it is not the first time a boat making the perilous journey across the Mediterranean has capsized because of sudden movement onboard when help is in sight. Apparently, the victims are not aware about simple boat balance theory, but only about their own safety. This should be the rule number one for a passenger.
The scenario was vividly described by a Palestinian survivor of a shipwreck in August last year. He said that the “boat rolled as like being flung from a catapult. I could only see heads, all around, amid the waves, everyone pushing down on everyone else to try and stay afloat”.
According to the International Organisation for Migration, over 1,370 migrants have lost their lives so far this year as they attempt the perilous crossing to Europe.
The latest arrivals bring the number of people rescued and transferred to Italy since the start of the year to nearly 40,000 following the rescue of more than 6,000 since Monday, according to figures collated by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) and the coastguard.
The overwhelming majority of those arriving in Italy so far this year have been from sub-Saharan Africa. The EU-Turkey deal has restricted refugee moves from Turkey via the Greek islands. And therefore, the pact’s ripple effect is being felt by many who want to enter Europe. It has put more pressure on those taking the Libyan route to flee from their countries.
The EU-Turkey deal aims to stem the flow of refugees and illegal migrants. While it checks the exodus through Turkey, the agreements has many drawbacks, which are surfacing of late. Ankara struck the deal with EU so that its citizens can travel without much visa hassles in Europe. However, on Thursday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said Ankara must ease strict anti-terror laws if it wants its citizens to enjoy visa-free travel on the continent. The comment followed warning of Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday to EU that his parliament would block laws related to the landmark deal if it didn’t get its way on visa liberalisation.
The agreement saw Turkey pledge to work to stop migrants crossing the Aegean to Europe and also readmit migrants who had crossed illegally. Indeed, the EU officials admit the deal is working as it has significantly reduced the flow of migrants. Yet, Ankara has been irritated about the bloc’s unwarranted delay to grant its citizens the visa-free travel to the passport free Schengen area it was offered in return.
Interestingly, both parties need each other to make this deal a success. Brussels is quite aware that Ankara can open floodgates of refugees to stream into Europe if the deal falters. Meanwhile, Ankara knows the burden of refugees could break its back without cooperation from the EU and international
community. It is a win-win deal that must succeed.
Turkey and EU will grapple ceaselessly with their differences. More and more people will take the risky ride in the sea to reach Europe. Amid these, the root of migration problem will remain unattended. And in a bid to escape violence, despair and poverty, the hapless migrants will continue to meet the